Young offenders


Fewer and fewer young people are committing crimes, but there are still too many young people coming into contact with the criminal justice system.

In particular, too many young people are re-offending. 73% of young people released from custody re-offend within a year.

We are also spending large sums of money on the secure estate (youth offenders’ institutes, secure training centres or secure children’s homes), with some places costing more than £200,000 a year.

Young offenders need education and training to enable them to return to school or college or find employment, but too many lack basic skills.


We will reduce youth crime by:

  • setting up Secure Colleges to treat a young person’s time in custody as education with detention, rather than detention with education as an afterthought
  • simplifying youth sentences and making them more effective at rehabilitating
  • increasing the use of ‘restorative justice’ approaches where victims are able to explain the impact an offence has caused
  • reducing the use of remand in custody for young people, and gradually making local councils responsible for the cost of remand


The purpose of the youth justice system is to prevent offending by children and young people between 10 and 17 years old, while safeguarding their welfare.

Some progress has been made in recent years. Both the number of young people entering the system and the number of young people in custody have decreased.

Many of the most prolific adult offenders commit their first crimes at a very early age. If we can get involved early enough, before this criminal behaviour becomes ‘normal’, we can improve their lives and those of their communities.

Who we’ve consulted

We published a consultation in February 2013, Transforming Youth Custody: Putting education at the heart of detention which set out plans to place high quality education at the centre of youth custody. The consultation is due to close on 30 April 2013.

Bills and Legislation

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, that received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012, created a new youth remand and sentencing structure, giving more flexibility to courts to decide on appropriate disposals.

The Children and Families Bill, being considered by Parliament, includes provisions that require local authorities and youth offending teams to work together when assessing the needs of young offenders with special educational needs.