Page last updated at 12:53 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 13:53 UK

Crimes by girls rise by a quarter

A young person drinking
Violent female behaviour has been linked to consumption of alcohol

The number of crimes committed by girls in England and Wales has gone up by 25% in three years - according to figures

The Youth Justice Board says girls committed 59,000 offences in 2006-07 - up 12,000 on 2003-4 but still far less crime than that committed by boys.

There were significant increases in minor assaults, robberies, public order offences and criminal damage.

Overall, there has been a 2% reduction in crimes committed by boys over the same period, the statistics show.

The total number of offences by those aged between 10 and 17 which led to police or court action was just over 295,000 - down from more than 301,000 in 2005-06, but still higher than three years ago.

The vast majority of such crime is carried out by boys rather than girls.

The most likely causes are to do with the way people spend their time
Dr Ann Hagell

However, the latest figures on offences resulting in a police warning or court sanction confirm a continuing long-term trend of increasing criminality among girls.

The board, which is responsible for overseeing juvenile offenders in England and Wales, says it has now commissioned a study to work out if there are any specific factors to blame for the rise in crime from girls and what can be done to tackle offending.

Its initial findings suggest the increase is partly down to a rise in the total number of girls of that age, coupled with the police being more willing to take action against girls accused of less serious crimes such as school fights.

But there may also be a link between female violent offending and teenage drinking.

Offences by gender pie chart

Elaine Arnull, who carried out research which accompanies the figures, said: "It's things like fights between girls that were dealt with in other ways before.

"Perhaps schools didn't call the police if girls fought in the playground, or people didn't necessarily think that girls should be prosecuted in that way - that maybe there were other ways to deal with it."

Insp Kevin Whipps, who heads the children and young people's unit at Essex Police, said his officers were seeing more young girls committing crimes.

"In the past we haven't seen girls significantly being involved in crime," he said.

"However, recently we have - stealing things like cosmetics which are very easy to steal. Therefore the onus is on the shops to stop that sort of thing going on."

Offending rates

The board said the rise in the total number of offences on three years ago was partly down to police targets.

Paris Hayes
I regret some of it now like my school... I could have done a lot better
Paris Hayes, 17

It said it had had some success with preventative schemes, seeing a 4% fall in the number of juveniles being brought before the criminal justice system compared with the previous year.

Special programmes to target boys and girls most at risk of becoming offenders had seen a 65% drop in arrests.

The report also reveals there has been an 85% increase in the use of tagging for juvenile offenders over the past four years, while an average of 2,900 under-18s were being held in custody each day.

Overall, almost four out of 10 juveniles who offended in 2005 went on to break the law again.

Reoffending rates were highest among those who had a custodial sentence - 64%.

In contrast, 75% of those dealt with before reaching the courtroom, such as with an official final warning, did not reoffend.

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