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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 18:39 GMT
Measures to tackle young offenders
The Hamilton court used for the trial
The Hamilton court handles persistent young offenders
A second youth court is to be established in Scotland, following a successful pilot project in Hamilton.

The new court for young offenders in Airdrie is part of a 35m package of youth justice initiatives announced at Holyrood by Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson.

She also said that the number of young people who will face the consequences of their actions through restorative justice will be doubled to 6,000.

The Tories and Nationalists said more needed to be done.

Rolled out

Ms Jamieson told MSPs that the pilot youth court in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, had proved a success with 126 persistent young offenders, aged between 15 and 17, coming before it since June.

A second youth court will now be opened in the smaller town of Airdrie, North Lanarkshire.

Once a full assessment has been carried out, it is hoped the system can be rolled out across Scotland.

Other plans included more money to make sure that every young offender in Scotland is dealt with by the courts within 10 days of being charged by the year 2006.

Both the Scottish National Party and the Tories lined up to criticise the executive, claiming much more needed to be done.

Cathy Jamieson
Cathy Jamieson: "Not anti-young people"

SNP justice spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said more secure accommodation places were needed for persistent young offenders.

She added: "Many children are being seriously let down by the system.

"Hundreds are not getting the level of service required if we are to maximise the chances that they will not re-offend."

Tory justice spokeswoman Annabel Goldie said a quick, effective youth justice system was essential in dealing with young offenders.

She said one improvement would be that 14 and 15-year-olds should be taken out of the children's hearing system and sent to youth courts.

Young tearaways

She added: "While the minister has gone some way towards explaining where improvements are being sought, there is clearly a great deal still to be done."

Ms Jamieson insisted that given time, the executive's plans would be effective in reducing youth crime.

The minister also denied that the moves, coupled with measures contained in the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill to tackle young tearaways, meant the executive was "anti-young person".

She said: "It is because I care passionately about young people, because I want to see them make the most of their lives, rather than losing their lives to crime, that I take such a strong approach to this."

Criminal patterns

Those being held at the Kerelaw Secure Unit for young offenders in North Ayrshire, said they wished they had been punished earlier and then be given a second chance.

One boy said: "It's been a major thing, with not being able to go to school and going off the rails. I should have been put away in a secure place before doing anything serious."

Workers at the Kerelaw Secure Unit said that more has to be done to make school pupils aware of the dangers and consequences of crime.

The unit's Pauline Smith said: "That's where the money needs to be spent in order to catch young people early enough in their criminal patterns.

"If you can catch them young and do it as part of their education, then we may be able to stop them from becoming criminals."

Fiona Walker reports
"Some young offenders wish they were caught earlier and the given a second chance"

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