Fall in number of crimes committed by children in Dorset

The latest Youth Justice Statistics show children aged between 10 and 17 committed 441 crimes recorded by Dorset Police in the year to March 2023. It was down from 517 the year before, and a substantial decrease of 39% over the past decade. Across England and Wales, around 34,300 proven offences were committed by children – up 1% from the year before but down 65% from a decade before.

A spokesperson for the Youth Justice Board said: “The earlier we intervene to support children who are vulnerable, the more likely they will go on to live constructive lives. They added: “This will result in less crime, fewer victims, and safer communities.” The figures also show the number of theft and handling stolen goods offences committed by young people jumped 23% from 2,200 in 2021-22 to 2,700 crimes last year.

However, in Dorset, 26 theft offences were committed by young people in Dorset last year – down from 27 in 2021-22. The highest proportion of recorded crimes last year were categorised as violence against the person (42%) – which ranges from minor offences such as harassment to serious offences like murder. Commenting on the figures, YJB chair Keith Fraser said black children and those with mixed ethnicity continue to be over-represented across most stages of the youth justice system.

He added there have been “promising reductions” in the proportions of black children across several areas including arrests, youth cautions, first time entrants, sentencing and children in custody. In Dorset, a total of 182 children were cautioned or sentenced in 2022-23. Of those with a known ethnicity, 4% were black and 6% were mixed.

National Association for Youth Justice chair Dr Tim Bateman said: “The increasing overrepresentation of black and other minoritised children within the youth justice system over the past decade is deeply disturbing and sits in stark contrast to other improvements in the treatment of children in trouble with the law.” He added the data suggests white children are more likely to be diverted from the criminal justice system than their minority counterparts. He called for greater transparency in the decision-making process as to which children are cautioned or prosecuted, and which are not.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the number of children entering the criminal justice system has fallen by 72% since 2012 with an even greater reduction in those receiving a caution or sentence.

They added: “At the same time, the proportion of arrested children who are black has fallen for a third consecutive year.

“We’re doing more than ever to divert ethnic minority youngsters away from crime as well as tackling disparities in the system – for example by increasing diversity in the judiciary.”