Keeping you informed of the figures

We’ve been keeping you informed of the figures….So what are they telling us? CYCJ’s Debbie Nolan explains how analysing the data on the number of young people in custody and secure care can help us to identify trends and in turn, better meet the needs of vulnerable youth.

For the previous nine months via the e-bulletin, the CYCJ have been keeping you informed of the number of young people in custody and sentenced in secure care. As highlighted in the CYCJ (2014) publication Youth Justice in Scotland: Fixed in the past or fit for the future? and the Scottish Government’s (2015) Youth Justice Strategy Preventing Offending Getting it right for children and young people, the number of under 18s in custody has markedly declined over recent years. In January the CYCJ decided to begin publishing these figures on a monthly basis as youth justice statistics, unlike their justice counterparts, had not been routinely and regularly published and to help identify trends, which given the comparisons of the figures over the last nine months highlighted in the graph below has proved useful.



Figure 1 The number of under 18s in custody and sentenced in secure care in Scotland

So what are the figures telling us? The figures provide a snapshot of one day each month for numbers of young people in custody and in secure care either one day or an average of one week of each month. In spite of these limitations, on the dates figures have been provided for, they show there have been no under 16s in custody and the number of untried and convicted females under 18 in custody has been 2 or less (for the purpose of presenting findings these figures have been combined). These snapshot figures do however show a large increase in the total number of under 18s in custody and sentenced young people in secure care during the previous nine months, with the largest increase being in the numbers of convicted males, untried males, and young people who have been convicted and are awaiting sentence. The increase in the number of sentenced young people in secure care has also been fairly high. When these total numbers are taken as an average they remain comparable with last year but the significant increase in numbers from January to September 2015 is an area of concern and has been discussed with various agencies including the Scottish Government and Scottish Prison Service.

So what might be causing this increase? At the present time this is not clear but various possible suggestions have been put forward including:

  • An increase in the severity of offending by under 18s;
  • Increased use of remand;
  • Reduction in the granting of bail due to lack of suitable accommodation;
  • Failure to comply with previous community disposals and therefore reluctance to impose a further such sentence;
  • Uncertainty about the effectiveness of alternatives to secure care or custody;
  • Lack of, or inconsistent, implementation of the Whole System Approach.

So what next? The reasons for this trend warrant further exploration. SPS colleagues have begun to do so and as part of the priorities of the Reintegration and Transitions Champions Group to be carried over to future working groups under the Youth Justice Strategy, continued regular publication and monitoring of the numbers of young people in secure care and custody and information gathering to understand these young people’s needs and journeys have been proposed. This is of vital importance to fully understand what is going on, where to target supports and resources, and to ensure that we are not gradually returning to the high number of under 18s in custody we have previously seen.


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Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
Lord Hope Building, Level 6
141 St. James Road Glasgow G4 0LT

(0141) 444 8622

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