The number of youth offenders in Wigan entering the justice system for the first time has plummeted by more than 90 per cent in a decade, new figures reveal.
The Criminal Bar Association says first-time junior crooks accused of serious crimes are “leaping at the offer” of informal resolutions for their offences.
Ministry of Justice Data shows that 40 under-18 first-time offenders were convicted in Wigan in 2018-19.
A decade before, the figure was 434 – meaning a drop of 91 per cent. Nationally the decline was 85 per cent. It meant that last year 134 in every 100,000 10 to 17-year-olds entered the justice system – below the average for the North West, where 241 did.
The CBA said a major reason for the sharp fall in youth prosecutions is the increased use of police community resolution orders.
Chairman Chris Henley QC said: “It’s unsurprising offenders arrested for serious crime leap at the offer of an informal community resolution order. Sadly, this is all about a lack of resources. The number of community resolution orders issued in serious cases has increased significantly as funding has fallen dramatically.
“This lets down both the current and future victims of serious crime.”
And while crime has increased, the number of cases going to trial has fallen.
A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman said: “The fall in the number of young people entering the criminal justice system can partly be attributed to the fact that more first-time offenders for low-level crimes are being put through diversion schemes.
“We know that prosecuting young people for low-level offending can actually increase the chances of them reoffending.
“Diversion tactics, on the other hand, give the police other options, and can help young people escape a life of crime.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said efforts to rehabilitate low-risk young offenders in the community had caused a 70 per cent drop in the number of children in custody, adding: “But this Government is serious about sending people to prison who need to be there to punish them for their actions and protect the public.
"That is why we are urgently taking action to improve and modernise our Victorian jails.