Hundreds more Northamptonshire youths become involved in crime
The national youth justice board has raised concerns about serious youth violence in the county
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By Sarah Ward
The number of Northamptonshire young people involved in crime increased by almost a fifth in the year to March according to a new report by the county’s youth offending service.
Published this week, the report reveals that between April last year and March 3,200 young people were involved in almost 6,000 offences either as a suspect or offender, with common assault or actual bodily harm the most prevalent crimes.
The new data comes in the aftermath of the killings of three teenagers Rayon Pennycook, 16, Dylan Holliday, 16 and Kyle Ghanie, 18, who have all tragically lost their lives on the county’s streets in separate incidents since May last year.
There have also been numerous and regular incidents of violent crime involving teenagers across the county’s major towns, with youth gang activity recorded in Northampton, Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough.
A report to go to North Northamptonshire Council’s committee today reveals that the national Youth Justice Board, appointed by the secretary of state for justice, wrote to Northamptonshire’s Youth Offending Management board in February about concerns relating to key performance data and the increase in serious violence.
The YJB has now given the county’s youth justice service a priority one status, which means it will be keeping a closer eye on the service and broker additional support if needed.
A Youth Justice Plan for 2022/23 has been produced, which has been approved by the youth offending service’s management board and will go before unitary councils’ for final approval.
The plan must set out a strategy for the county’s youth justice services and describe how it will reduce first time entrants to the justice system, cut back on the use of custody for young people and reduce reoffending rates.
Headline data from the report includes:
A third of the young people involved in the 5,900 crimes recorded in the
12 months to March this year lived in areas which are among the 20 per cent most deprived nationally. Approximately the same percentage took place in the same deprived areas.
There were around 650 new entrants into the youth justice system in the year 2021, a drop on previous years but the rate is still above the England and regional average.
The BAME community is over represented within the offending data - accounting for 18 per cent of the offences, compared to making up just 11 per cent of the county’s youth population.
86 per cent of the youth offenders are male and 14 per cent are female.
Reoffending rates are at just under 30 per cent, which is four per cent below the national average and two per cent below the regional average.
The number of nights young people were remanded in overnight custody doubled to 1215 in the year to March (compared to 606 nights the year before). The report says the increase is due to the ‘higher levels of youth violence and the severity of offences’. This cost the local authorities just under £406,000.
While the rate of serious youth violence at 3.8 per 100,000 people is below the regional average, it is above the national average.
The Northamptonshire youth offending service, which is led by Claire O'Keeffe, has a budget of £2.518m, with the lion's share coming from the local authorities and the remainder coming from central government grants, the police and crime commissioners office and public health.
At more than 60 pages and thousands of words, the plan is packed with data and information so NN Journal has picked out the following points that appear concerning.
The service has direct access to public health funding to employ substance misuse workers but has experienced issues with the county’s mental health provider Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust.
The report says: “ . . an ongoing challenge is access to NHFT and we have identified an increase in the numbers of young people with significant mental health issues which are currently seeking support and unable to access this. There is an over presentation of young women in the criminal justice system with mental health issues.
Special Branch has become involved to determine whether there are extremist links to the serious youth violence occurring on the county’s streets. The report says: “Prevent Partnership data and analysis subgroup has begun in 2022/23 to better understand if there are terrorist/extremist links in the serious youth violence occurrences and identify vulnerability factors for this involvement. This is proposed to be taken over by Special Branch as they alone have access to some specific data that is required.
The youth offending team will partner with public health to carry out a holistic health needs assessment specifically looking at the physical and mental/emotional health of young people known to the service
A pilot scheme has begun in Wellingborough, working with the police to identify early trends in violence and make referrals to the right agencies such as the prevention team.
Other stories from NN Journal about youth knife crime
Dylan Holliday’s teenager killer Jamal Waddell was sentenced to twelve years yesterday, and he can now be named after Northants Telegraph reporter Alison Bagley successfully applied to lift the reporting restriction on naming him.
Listen to NN Journal’s podcast made earlier this year about youth knife crime in the county.