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Family court data links adverse family experiences with proven youth offending

Date:20 OCT 2017
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Children in contact with the public law system are more likely to offend and commit multiple offences between the ages of 10 and 17 than those of the equivalent age group in the general population, according to an analytical summary published by the Ministry of Justice this week.
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The analysis, which explores proven youth offending rates of those in contact with the family justice system as a child, used linked data, matching extracts from the Police National Computer (PNC) and the family justice case management database (FamilyMan) for the first time. It focused specifically on children that have been named in a public law case, where the local authority has intervened to protect their welfare.

Other key findings of the summary include:

  • Children in contact with the public law system, on average, start offending earlier than offenders of the same age in the general population.
  • Findings from the evidence review suggest that the link between offending and public law may be explained to a large extent by shared risk factors, including family poverty and parental neglect or abuse.
  • Wider evidence indicates that when children have been taken into local authority care, placement type and instability have been linked to higher offending rates. There is, however, concern about unnecessary criminalisation of children in care homes and this may explain, in part, the higher offending levels for this group.
  • Results from this analysis suggest that children in contact with the public law system in their early teenage years for the first time were more likely to offend than those who were involved at any other age.
  • Wider evidence indicates that maltreatment and going into care as a teenager may have a stronger association with youth offending than maltreatment or care only experienced in childhood. Young people’s offending may also be affected by the type and instability of the care placement experienced. That said, teenagers can have preexisting issues with offending that may have influenced placement decisions.
  • Results suggest that for females in their early teenage years, contact with the public law system was linked to a greater increase in likelihood of offending, prolificacy and violent offending than for males. However, young males in contact with the public law system still have a higher likelihood of offending than females of the same age. International research indicates that experience of out-of-home placement can be more strongly linked to offending for females.