The crimes committed by children in Wales as new Ministry of Justice figures come to light

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Violence, thefts, criminal damage and motoring offences are among the crimes committed most often by kids in Wales.

There were 2,651 proven offences committed by children aged 10 to 17 in the country in 2018/19, the latest figures available have revealed.

That was down from 3,029 offences committed in the previous year and the lowest number since 2013/14, when comparable records began and 5,461 offences were recorded.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show violence against the person was the most common crime committed by kids, with 745 proven offences.

Criminal damage followed with 350 cases, while there were 304 motoring offences and 275 theft and handling stolen goods offences.

Among the other offences committed by children in the country, there were also 91 sexual offences, 107 burglaries and 180 drug offences.

Figures also show 986 children were cautioned or sentenced in the country in 2018/19.

A child can commit more than one offence and can get different youth cautions or sentences at the same time, hence the number of children is lower than those figures.

Children in the region were given 243 youth cautions and 396 referral orders.

A youth caution is given when the child admits an offence but it is not in the public interest to prosecute.

Referral orders are community sentences given to those who plead guilty. The child is required to attend a youth offender panel and agrees to address their offending behaviour (for example through a substance misuse assessment or anger management).

They may also have to make amends to the victim, for example by repairing any damage caused or paying compensation.

Among the other outcomes, there were also 11 absolute discharges and 42 detentions.

In 2018/19, there were 58,943 proven offences committed by children in England and Wales.

Violence against the person was the most common crime with 17,501 offences – just under a third of all offences.

Overall, offences committed by children are dropping rapidly – 16% in a year from 70,349 in 2017/18.

While all types of offences apart from robbery (which was up 5% in a year) are declining, some are declining more rapidly than others.

Violent crimes have decreased by 63% compared to 2008/09, when there were 47,490 such offences.

There were 6,744 theft and handling stolen goods offences in 2018/19 – the second most common crime.

That was 86% lower than the 49,183 offences recorded in 2008/09.

A slower decrease in violent crimes means they now make up a bigger proportion of overall crimes – going from 19% in 2008/09 to 30% in 2018/19.

However, the number of such offences has decreased from 47,490 to 17,501 over the period.

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Tim Bateman, chair of the National Association for Youth Justice, said part of why violence was making up a bigger share as overall crime fell, was due to the types of crime people were caught for.

However, according to the chairman, there still is a high proportion of illegal activities that go unreported.

The decrease in detected youth crime over the past 12 or so years is also a consequence of a shift in the treatment of children who break the law.

Until around 2008, the presumption was that even low level offending by children should be met with a caution or prosecution.

Now, that assumption has been replaced by diverting children from the youth justice system, so an increasing proportion of children who would previously have been given a formal sanction are now dealt with informally and do not feature in the figures.

This is more likely to happen for less serious offences, as Mr Bateman explained, such as theft – which is why they appear to have fallen more rapidly than offences of violence.

Criminal damage was the third most common crime committed by children in Wales and England, with 6,222 offences, followed by 5,494 motoring offences and 5,253 drugs offences.

Kids also committed 1,074 sexual offences, 2,469 robberies and 1,267 domestic burglaries.

Overall, 21,665 kids were cautioned or sentenced in 2018/19, the lowest number since 2010/2011, when comparable records began. That year, 106,969 kids were cautioned or sentenced.

Of the kids receiving a caution or sentence in 2918/19, 32 were 10 years old at the time of the first hearing and 7,168 were 17 years old.

There were 2,899 absolute or conditional discharges and courts also made 8,366 referral orders and issued 1,585 fines.

Children were given immediate custodial sentences 1,287 times.

The average custodial sentence given to children has increased by more than six months over the last 11 years, from 11.4 to 17.7 months – driven by an increase in the length of sentences imposed for more serious crimes by crown courts.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “These figures reflect the fact that police forces up and down the country have diverted resources to tackling serious crime rather than arresting children for being naughty, as was happening in the past. This approach helps to make communities safer while giving more children the opportunity to thrive.

“Every child wants and deserves the chance to grow and fulfil their potential. We must do all we can to ensure that they are not held back by a criminal record.

“This is why the Howard League has supported the police as arrests of children have fallen by more than 70% in eight years, preventing tens of thousands of boys and girls from becoming tangled up in the criminal justice system.”



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