'Phenomenal' achievement of Luton's youth offending service as fewer teens brought before courts

Only about 30 young people from Luton have entered the criminal justice system over the past 12 months, which has been described as “quite phenomenal”.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 4:10 pm
Luton Magistrates Court

The current performance for 2020/21 shows between 25 and 32 young people entering the justice system, according to a report to the council’s scrutiny crime and disorder committee.

“There are around 200 to 250 young people at risk of doing so at any one time,” said the report.

“Significantly though, these are only the young people who have come to the attention of our service.

“Release under investigation and bail cases continue to present an issue,” added the report.

“As of February 2021, Luton has more than 40 young people on bail or released under investigation awaiting further action.”

A first time entrant is a young person who receives a youth caution or above, the council’s youth offending service (YOS) manager Dave Collins told the committee.

“Luton continued to record a minimal level of first time entrants this year and we’re on track for an annual performance reduction on last year,” he said.

“Last year we saw the lowest ever return on new entrants to our justice system. Our current performance is about 30, which is quite phenomenal really.

“Early on in lockdown we decided to send the target duty service out on detached patrols with community policing, and I don’t think we saw anyone criminalised as a result.

“First time entrants are best understood against the preventative work and analysis we undertake, such as the multi-agency gang panel (MAGPan), our targeted youth service.

“We work differently to other youth offending services. We work proactively in that space.”

The youth offending service in Luton has been in face-to-face contact with young people and families since June, said Mr Collins.

“We’re aware of those young people on the cusp of criminal exploitation and coming into the criminal justice system, so we can work with them earlier.

“There are risks to it, with Covid and the school closures. Next to the police, the majority of the referrals into MAGPan come from schools.

“So when you haven’t got those day-to-day eyes looking at young people over safeguarding issues we haven’t got that level of referrals.

“We’re starting to see some young people getting involved in offending who haven’t been identified, so that’s a concern we need to get on top of.

“Another concern is a report last month by YOS strategic management board highlighting a 37 per cent rise in drug offences with first time entrants.

“These offences are associated with exploitation and county lines.”

The latest data for reoffending is “mixed results, with the frequency measure identifying us as top five YOS out of 155 in the country”, warned Mr Collins.

“While we continue to exceed performance in our national comparative band, which is more important, the performance is still below average for the last five years.

“So it’s not a completely negative picture. There are some positives.

“Early identification of those young people diverted from court orders or youth condition orders is key as well.

“When you consider the majority of that prevention work across MAGPan is voluntary we’ve got a 75 per cent engagement rate.”