Monday, 11 May, 2009

The number of yobs repeatedly committing crimes has soared by 60% since Labour came to power, new figures revealed today.

Ministry of Justice figures revealed that the number of Persistent Young Offenders (PYOs) in England and Wales increased from 9,868 in 1997 to 15,819 last year.

The number of offences they commit each year has risen by more than 80% - to nearly 80 every day.

A Persistent Young Offender is someone aged 10-17 sentenced for a recordable offence three times or more over three years.

The figures were revealed to the Tories in written parliamentary answers.

Shadow police minister David Ruffley said the system is failing to keep offenders off the streets or rehabilitate them.

He said: "Police officers are concerned that a huge amount of their time is spent dealing with the same repeat young offenders that the criminal justice system fails to keep off the streets or rehabilitate. I agree with the police that this revolving door of criminality is unacceptable.

"These new figures show that Labour Ministers have presided over a decade of yobbery, fuelled by massive increases in the number of repeat young offenders.

"These figures make a mockery of Labour's promises to tackle youth crime. There have been 46 Labour strategies since 1997 to try and tackle youth crime and it's now clear they have failed."

The figures emerged as police leaders accused courts of going soft on crime by allowing offenders to "renegotiate" the terms of their community sentences.

Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever told The Sunday Telegraph Labour had "failed abysmally" on crime.

He told the newspaper: "One of the things that has to change is that 'no' has to mean 'no'. People should not be able to renegotiate their anti-social behaviour orders, their curfews and their community service orders.

"The feeling within the police is that we take an awful lot of stick and are blamed for the general failure of the criminal justice system."

His comments came ahead of the federation's three day conference in Bournemouth this week, which will be addressed by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

Ms Smith today revealed around 20% of primary schools and 45% of secondary schools in England are part of Safer School Partnerships, aimed at tackling crime, drugs and gang culture.

She said: "I want to ensure our young people are offered as much protection from crime as possible - while they are often blamed for causing crime the reality is they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

"Developing good relationships between young people and the police is essential to achieving that goal."

Justice minister David Hanson said education and training for young offenders was helping cut re-offending.

He said: "We want to help young people get away from crime. But we are clear that we will use tough enforcement when any young person oversteps the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and we will ensure that the most serious crimes are investigated and prosecuted."

And he defended community sentences: "Sentencing in individual cases is rightly a matter for the courts - this is a cornerstone of our justice system. The courts must sentence on the facts of each case, taking seriousness, culpability and harm into account.

"There are a range of sentences available to the courts, including fines and prison - but also tough community sentences, which involve payback to society and aim to change patterns of behaviour to turn offenders away from crime.

"Tough community sentences are far from a soft option.

"They can combine punishments, including up to 300 hours of unpaid work, with rehabilitation like drug treatment. Such sentences can often be more effective at reducing reoffending than short custodial sentences."