HC Deb 19 March 1998 vol 308 cc680-1W
Mr. Allan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department by what date he expects to halve the time from arrest to sentencing for persistent young offenders; what monitoring of timings is undertaken; what representations he has received concerning the definition of persistent young offenders; and if he will make a statement. [34683]

Mr. Michael

Halving the time between arrest and sentence for persistent young offenders is our top law and order priority, and we intend to achieve this objective as soon as possible. We have already encouraged all youth justice agencies to take action within the current statutory framework to tackle unnecessary delays, including establishing fast track arrangements for persistent young offenders.

Ministers from all the relevant Departments joined my right hon. Friend and my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor to promote this initiative and it is clear that real efforts are being made at a local level to respond. In addition, the Crime and Disorder Bill, currently before Parliament, includes a range of important measures to streamline the system, improve case management and provide for statutory time limits.

Since coming to office, the Government have carried out a survey of persistent young offenders dealt with by the youth justice system in 1996. That survey indicated that in 1996 the average time between arrest and sentence for persistent young offenders was 142 days. The Government are committed to halving that figure to 71 days. To monitor progress towards that pledge, we are ensuring that systems are put in place to produce regular data on the time between arrest and sentence for persistent young offenders. During this month, we are contacting youth justice agencies to find out what progress has been made locally to tackle delays and to establish fast tracking arrangements for persistent young offenders.

In response to the consultation paper "Tackling Delays in the Youth Justice System" we received 48 representations concerning the Government's proposed definition of persistent young offenders. Nine respondents welcomed the definition of persistent young offender. 25 respondents suggested that a range of different definitions of persistent young offender should be used, or that there should be no standard definition at all. Others commented more generally on the proposed definition. The definition is intended primarily for monitoring purposes, and is not intended to exclude others from being fast tracked. Local areas may use their discretion in deciding which additional cases to fast track, including spree offenders and others.

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