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The problem of youth crime, and how best to respond to it, has attracted political attention for decades. More than 30 years ago, for example, the 1979 Conservative party manifesto promised to make more use of attendance centres for “hooligans” and to give a “short, sharp shock” to young offenders.

The Labour Government introduced wide-ranging reforms to youth justice, intended to deal with the perceived inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the old system. These included the creation of the Youth Justice Board and a system of local, multi-disciplinary Youth Offending Teams. Evaluations of these reforms identified improvements, but there were also criticisms, with some calling for more prevention work (particularly through other services such as local authority children’s services) and less criminalisation of young people.

The Coalition document, published in May 2010, announced a review of sentencing and the consultation (green) paper on punishment and rehabilitation, published in December 2010, promised to “break the cycle” of reoffending. In February 2013, the Ministry of Justice published a further consultation (green) paper Transforming Youth Custody: Putting education at the heart of detention, which put forward proposals based around the concept of Secure Colleges. That consultation closed at the end of April 2013 and the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, has recently said that an announcement on the Government’s plans for rehabilitating young offenders will be made “in the very near future”.


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