Youth Matters

Oral Answers to Questions — Solicitor-General – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Solicitor General, Law Officers' Department

Although I have not specifically discussed with the Home Secretary the document "Youth Matters", I am aware of the programme and I meet him regularly at the National Criminal Justice Board meetings, where youth issues and wider issues are often discussed. The last meeting was on 27 February and the next is on 27 March.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Children, Young People and Families)

Does the Solicitor-General share my concern at the growing antisocial behaviour in market towns such as Thirsk and the fact that few prosecutions are taken, especially in cases of the breach of an order or contract under the new antisocial behaviour regulations? Does he agree that rather than seek to prosecute, it would be better to intervene to take the children off the street earlier? What are the Government doing to stop truancy in schools, which can lead to antisocial behaviour? Why are there no prosecutions for breaches of those contracts, and what value do they have in the circumstances?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Solicitor General, Law Officers' Department

The aim is to change behaviour and therefore the approach taken is to prosecute where necessary. Some prosecutions do take place, but not unless they are necessary to change the behaviour. The Government's approach is to ensure, through "Youth Matters", the document that set out the youth strategy, that we put £115 million into developing youth activities, and also identify those young people who need to be diverted from what may well be antisocial behaviour. I know that in my own area in the village of Gouldon, the local community has got together to put in place packages of assistance for young people by creating pods and developing youth activities, and ensuring a greater police presence and CCTV cameras. It is possible for local people to put together packages to reduce the level of antisocial behaviour and ensure that young people are diverted away from criminal activity and directed towards more useful activities.

Photo of David Kidney David Kidney PPS (Rt Hon David Miliband, Secretary of State), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Has my hon. Friend made an assessment of the successes and failures of the intensive supervision and surveillance programme, which is very effectively managed in Staffordshire? If he has, what implications does that have for youth sentencing at the end of court cases?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Solicitor General, Law Officers' Department

Intensive supervision has been shown to have considerable merits in dealing with particular individuals who need that level of intervention. We are likely to see increasing use of that measure. The response by the criminal justice system to antisocial behaviour by young people will increasingly be directed to dealing with particular problems that they have. The more that we can tailor the intervention by the criminal justice system to the particular problems that individuals have, to divert them away from activities that cause difficulties, the better will be our opportunities to reduce the amount of antisocial behaviour.