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Categorized | Criminal Justice, Legal Aid

Youth rehabilitation orders and curfew

Youth rehabilitation orders and curfew

Vivid pictures of inner cities vandalised and burning provide a sombre backdrop to the expressed fears of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) that prison numbers and crime rates will rise as a result of government attempts to curb youth crime.

Napo claims late amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and the Punishment of Offenders bill, introduced in response to coalition concerns that it was seen to be going soft on crime, will backfire. Of particular concern is the penalty for breach of a Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO). A YRO is the standard community sentence used for the majority of children and young people who offend. It simplifies sentencing for young people, designed to improve the flexibility of interventions, and usually contains one or more requirements which must be adhered to by that young offender. For the court to sentence a young person to a YRO it must consider the offence serious enough, and the restriction of liberty involved must be proportionate to seriousness of offence. The court will specify the date or dates by which particular requirements must be completed, and the maximum period of a YRO is three years.

Clause 70 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and the Punishment of Offenders bill proposes a ten-fold increase in the fine for an individual who breaches a YRO, from the current £250 to £2,500. “All the people affected by this change will be under 16 and therefore by law not in paid employment,” said Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, as reported in the ‘Observer’. “The only way therefore they could pay the fine themselves would presumably be a massive increase in their involvement in crime, or it would fall to their parents to pay. In the event of the money not being given to the courts, presumably the individual young people or members of their families would be jailed in default.” Custody is an option for breach of a YRO only if the original offence is imprisonable or, in the case of a non-imprisonable offence, following ‘wilful and persistent’ non-compliance.

Napo are also concerned over clause 60 of the same bill, which provides for the maximum amount of time an offender can be tagged under curfew to be increased from 12 hours to 16 hours per day. Napo say the increase would make it impossible for offenders to attend full-time education or work, and that the new measure would affect more than 20,000 people. Clause 60 also increases the maximum length of the tagging from six to 12 months. “No evidence has been produced by any government over the past 20 years to show that curfew tags have any impact at all on reoffending rates,” Fletcher said. “The effect of increasing the hours spent under curfew and the length of the tagging will lead to more failures and more people imprisoned for breaches.”
These concerns come as the prison population hits a record high of 85,578, and when the Ministry of Justice is committed to closing prisons as part of a cost-cutting exercise designed to save £2bn from its £9bn budget.

Photo courtesy of Beacon Radio’s Photostream

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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