Daily Mail, front page: A decade of delinquency

Friday, 6 March, 2009


A CRIMEWAVE blamed on Labour's 'decade of juvenile delinquency' has seen a huge increase in youth robbery and violence.

The number of offences committed by youngsters aged ten to 17 in the last year was 277,986 - more than one every two minutes.

A report from the Youth Justice Board yesterday charted robberies surging by 29 per cent between 2005 and last year to 6,669, including more than 30 carried out by children aged only ten.

Offences of violence against the person surged by a fifth from 44,988 to 53,930, while drug crime and criminal damage were both up by 12 per cent.

There was also yet more evidence of a 'ladette' crime wave. In 2004/05 girls accounted for 18.4 per cent of all offences committed, but in 2007/08 this figure increased to 20.9 per cent.

The number of offences by young females resulting in a punishment increased by 10 per cent from 52,838 to 57,962. Girls were responsible for 15,400 violent attacks and 885 muggings.

The most common crimes carried out by young women were theft and handling stolen goods, violence and public order offences such as drunkenness.

Conservative police spokesman David Ruffley said: 'This is the result of Labour allowing a decade of juvenile delinquency. We need more police on the beat to tackle this.'

Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve added: 'The surge in female violence, fuelled by binge-drinking, is a damning indictment of this Government's track record in addressing both crime and social breakdown.'

Criminologist David Green, of the Civitas think-tank, blamed a rise in single parenthood and a lack of willingness to teach children right from wrong.

Dr Green said: 'With young males it is the absence of a father to lay down the law.'

He added that the justice system was also at fault, with the courts not handing down stiff enough sentences.

The figures reveal that, despite the increase in violent crime and robbery, the use of custody fell from 6,862 cases four years ago to 6,853 last year. Over the last four years, there has been a 49 per cent increase in the use of electronic tagging of young offenders.

The Liberal Democrats highlighted a survey by the Youth Justice Board (YJB) showing that around half of young boys admitted carrying a weapon in the last year.

Home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: 'These shocking figures reveal that the Government has failed to get a grip on the knife culture that exists on many of our streets.

'It is a serious failing of our society that our young people feel the need to arm themselves for protection.'

The poll also showed one in six young people claimed to have been involved in a 'happy slapping' attack.

Youngsters said they had either recorded or photographed an assault, the Mori poll for the YJB revealed.

Among pupils questioned, 22 per cent said they had used their mobile phone to send a voicemail or text message designed to scare, harass or threaten someone. The percentage among girls was 26 per cent.

Last night the Youth Justice Board said that, year on year, the overall number of youth offences fell. This was achieved largely as a result of a huge reduction in motoring crimes.

Frances Done, the YJB's chairman, said: 'This survey shows the majority of children are law-abiding and know right from wrong.

'Unfortunately there is still a minority that can blight the lives of their community with their offending.'

In relation to the proportion of girls getting involved in crime, she said: 'Many of these young women have had difficult childhoods, have been abused or seen violence in the home.'

Mrs Done added: 'We shall continue the hard work at local, regional and national levels.

'This drop in the overall number of offences reflects the hard work undertaken by the hundreds of dedicated youth offending teams, workers in children's services and the police across England and Wales.