Birmingham's child criminals jailed at record rate - with 1,000 kids sentenced

Birmingham’s child criminals jailed at record rate – with 1,000 kids sentenced

Child criminals are being jailed at a record rate in Birmingham.

New figures from the Ministry of Justice reveal that 1,015 children in Birmingham were cautioned or sentenced for crimes in 2017/18.

Some 76 of those children were handed what’s known as a detention and training order – meaning they were put behind bars.

A detention and training order is usually only handed out for serious crimes.

Children spend half their sentence in custody and the other half under community supervision.

A further 21 children were given a section 90-91 detention.

These sentences are usually longer than the maximum two years of detention and training orders.

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The figures mean one in 10 of all children punished for a crime in Birmingham ended up behind bars.

That is the highest rate since at least 2013/14, when comparable records began.

That year just one in 16 child criminals ended up behind bars – while in 2014/15 it was one in 14, and in both 2015/16 and 2016/17 the rate had risen to one in 13.

Dr Tim Bateman, from the End Child Imprisonment campaign steering group, said: “There is a wealth of evidence that indicates that deprivation of liberty is damaging to children.

“It is injurious to their healthy development.

“It takes them away from their families and communities, and it can be seriously disruptive of education.

“For those sentenced to custody, the process is stigmatising making it harder to make a successful transition to adulthood.

“The large majority of children sentenced to custody are detained in young offender institutions and secure training centres, which the Youth Justice Board has acknowledged are not fit for purpose. They are places of violence where – as the Chief Inspector of Prisons has noted – children are not safe.”

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The figures suggest children in Birmingham are more likely to be jailed than the national average.

Across England and Wales there were 1,653 children given a detention and training order and 321 given a section 90-91 detention in 2017/18 – a rate of one in every 20 children cautioned or sentenced that year.

Earlier this year a an HM Inspectorate of Prisons report found that half of children at young offender institutions said they had been physically restrained in their establishment, and 40 per cent of boys claimed they had felt unsafe during their time there.

Nearly a third of boys (31 per cent) also said they experienced problems contacting family when they first arrived at their young offender institution.

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John Drew, senior associate at The Prison Reform, said: “Although we are in an era where the number of children being sent to custody is falling, we would say as a general principle custody should only be used as a last resort, and we don’t believe that statistically this is being used as a last resort.

“We know that the experience of being in custody makes children more likely to offend later.

“Children are at an impressionable age and when they are put together this can make more vulnerable children more drawn into crime.

“Children who are sucked into the system begin to be seen as problems and may start to believe that about themselves, which is why they then commit crime.

“However, we do welcome the fact that conditions under which a child is held in custody are changing.”

File photo posed by model.
File photo posed by model.

 

Young people under 18 are given different sentences to adults.

Detention and training orders – the young person’s equivalent of a simple jail sentence – last between four months and two years.

Section 90-91 orders are reserved for more severe crimes – usually violent or sexual – in which young people are given an extended sentence.

They can spend more time in prison and face a longer period under supervision, including using tags.

For murder, the court sets the minimum amount of time to be spent in custody. The young person cannot apply for parole before this time. When released, they will be kept under supervision for the rest of their life.

The Ministry of Justice was contacted for comment.

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