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Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 11:52 GMT
Call to back youth crime system
Spray-paint
Children's Hearings deal with the needs of youngsters, rather than their deeds
Scotland's children's hearing system needs to be reinforced to continue as an effective way of dealing with youth crime, an inquiry has found.

The system, set up more than 30 years ago, seeks to prevent youngsters from getting into trouble, rather than punishing them.

The inquiry by charity NCH Scotland concluded a fully resourced system could lead the world in child justice.

And it warned against a move towards increasingly punitive measures.

NCH Scotland insisted that the children's hearing system should remain at the centre of efforts to tackle youth offending but stressed that the system needed significant reform and more resources.

We need to be developing effective solutions for the 21st century rather than retreating back to 19th century models of punishment and containment
Richard Holloway
Report author
The report, which follows a year-long inquiry by an independent panel, said the children's hearing system offered "the most effective way forward".

"However it needs to be fully resourced and enthusiastically supported if it is to work to best effect," it said.

The report warned that systems focusing on courts and punishment were the most costly and pointed out that 75% of young people sentenced to custody went on to reoffend.

It recommended a more preventative approach with early intervention with troublemakers and a major expansion of community-based programmes which were more effective and cheaper.

Panel chair and former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway said: "It is very clear from the evidence presented to us from the police, from lawyers, from academics and from young people themselves that there is strong consensus that a punitive, court based system is the wrong approach.

Community involvement

"Young people in trouble who go into the court system stay there. Many become hardened life-long offenders.

"We need to be developing effective solutions for the 21st century rather than retreating back to 19th century models of punishment and containment."

The report made a string of recommendations including greater involvement of the police in hearings and more say for communities in measures to tackle youth crime.

It demanded that cash be moved away from custody to preventative and rehabilitative work after complaining that only 30m of the Scottish Executive's 240m youth justice budget was being spent on non-custodial sentencing.

It comes as the executive seeks to pass its Anti-Social Behaviour Bill which is aimed at cracking down on youth crime.

Another report into the system, being published on Tuesday, is set to reveal a continuing increase in the number of referrals to the Children's Panels.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Home Affairs correspondent Reevel Alderson reports
"The executive wants to crack down on Scotland's yobs."



SEE ALSO:
Police union leader 'out of touch'
07 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Disorder bill's proposals queried
06 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Disorder bill 'needs resourcing'
10 Dec 03  |  Scotland
McConnell denies 'demonising' youth
08 Nov 03  |  Scotland
Youth court opens doors - briefly
02 Jun 03  |  Scotland


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