Agenda item

County Durham Youth Justice Service


The Committee considered a report of the Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Services which presented an overview of County Durham Youth Justice Service, including the latest Service/Partnership performance. The report also highlighted key achievements during the previous year, along with areas for improvement and development which the service would be focussed upon during the next year (for copy of report, see file of Minutes).


Mr D Summers, Youth Justice Service Manager was in attendance to present the report and deliver a presentation that provided information on performance; service improvement plan; recognition and service developments 2023-2024 (for copy of presentation, see file of Minutes).


Councillor Quinn referred to the rate of young people receiving a custodial sentence and noted the rate of 0.06 per thousand for 10 -17 years seemed relatively low and asked if this was normal.


The Youth Justice Service Manager responded that it was lower than the regional and national figures and commented that some areas had zero and some areas had significantly higher than a rate of 0.06. He stated that every time a young person was in custody, a review was carried out on the appropriateness of the action taken by the Service. The Youth and Justice Service believed that some young people do need to go into custody if there was a need to protect the public.


Councillor Quinn referred to the re-offending rate of 36.8% and asked for some data on how this compared with other areas regionally and nationally.


The Youth Justice Service Manager responded that he would ensure any reports going forward would include more detail and indicated that the service was on a par with the regional and national rate for re-offending.


Mr Balls indicated that the information would be more useful if they had some comparison figures and indicated that it may have been useful to have last year’s figures.


Councillor Charlton referred to offending and asked if the offences were becoming more violent. She commented that in her division there had been some serious offences involving young people and asked if this was the norm and if offenders were becoming more complex to deal with.


The Youth Justice Service Manager confirmed that offenders were now more complex. In terms of violent crimes, he indicated that County Durham did not have the issues that were seen in some urban areas that dominated the news. He added that County Durham’s violence problem was mostly lower-level violence but it was getting worse with more serious levels of violence used. They had a potential developing issue with girls and violence and their willingness to use higher levels of violence. He stated that girls commit around 17% of all offences and 33% of violent offences. He continued that County Durham does not have a gang culture and does not have large-scale use of very serious violence.


Councillor Charlton responded that she wanted County Durham to be a safe place to live. She then referred to the new officers appointed to work exclusively with young people referred for anti-social behaviour and asked if a cap on the numbers of children they would be dealing with. She was concerned on the impact on staff dealing with complex cases and asked if the Service were looking after staff and case levels.


The Youth Justice Service Manager responded that the inspection that had taken place in August 2022 and looked at caseload levels and in their view, these were appropriate and the numbers were not too demanding. The Service has a detailed and full staff care process. They recognise that members of staff particularly those dealing with sex offenders may require support. The Service is a multi-agency partnership made up of 57 members of staff with no cap on caseload numbers. Caseloads are managed within the whole of the partnership’s resources.


Councillor Potts indicated that it did not feel like anything was improving in his area and referred to improving resources in neighbourhoods at the first point of contact with the police.


The Youth Justice Service Manager responded that they take their youth offending referrals from Durham Constabulary. They do not have an input in the police’s initial stages but do have in terms of supervision working jointly with the police in the local neighbourhood with multi-agency planning. The service does not have involvement in relation to the allocation of police resources.


Resolved: That the report and presentation be noted.

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