More than a million children have been convicted of a criminal offence and another million cautioned since Labour came to power, according to research by the Liberal Democrats. The figures, contained in answer to a Parliamentary Question, show that:
- 1,033,454 children aged between 10 and 17 have been convicted of a criminal offence since 1997. This includes almost 30,000 10 to 12 year olds.
- The number of 10 to 12 year olds convicted rose by 87.2% between 1997 and 2007. Among 13 to 15 year olds, it rose by 54.6%.
- 1,172,599 children aged between 10 and 17 were cautioned for a criminal offence under Labour.
- In the same period, 2,251,798 young adults (aged 18 to 21) were convicted and 577,424 were cautioned.
The Liberal Democrats propose a new approach to youth justice, tackling potential offenders before they enter the criminal justice system. Community Justice Panels should be established to draw up Positive Behaviour Orders (PBOs), which require minor offenders to agree on a course of action to pay back the community they have wronged.
The party is also committed to putting 10,000 extra police officers on the beat by scrapping the Government’s national ID card scheme. More officers will enable higher visibility policing at gun and knife crime hot spots and provide improved capability for intelligence-led stop and search.
The Liberal Democrats aim to engage young people and provide activities that will divert them from crime. The party will create a Youth Volunteer Force for every area, with young people working with local authorities on projects that serve the community.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg said:
“These shocking figures show how Labour has criminalised a generation of our children.
“It is a disgrace the Government spends eleven times more locking up our young people than it does on backing projects to stop them getting involved in crime in the first place.
“Dragging young people through the criminal justice system for minor offences is the best way of helping them to graduate to a more serious life of crime.
“Labour talks tough on crime, and then creates more criminals. It's time to talk sense and act smart to stop the young offenders of today becoming the hardened criminals of tomorrow.
“We need to see innovative approaches that ensure children make amends to their victims and put things right, rather than immediately criminalising them.
“The Liberal Democrats propose a new approach to youth justice that prevents young people from getting into crime in the first place.”