Headlines: July 15th, 2005

Local authorities in Scotland have welcomed the news that 14 council areas have seen a reduction in persistent youth offending since targets were set at the beginning of the year. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities said, too, that it shared the Scottish Justice Minister’s commitment to seeing a further reduction in youth offending, and full implementation of the standards by March 2006.COSLA warned, though, that the figures did not fully show the progress councils were making in tackling youth offending and pointed out that new punitive measures had diverted resources away from some other effective schemes.

A COSLA spokesman said the Scottish Executive was aware that achieving the results it wanted would require action from a range of bodies, not just councils, and authorities would be working closely with others to ensure that they were also in a position to deliver the ambitious targets.

The organisation also pointed out that the policy context of youth justice had changed considerably since the standards were first issued. The introduction of punitive measures such as Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, tagging and parenting orders had their place but they had diverted resources away from some excellent preventative and diversionary schemes developed across Scotland. It said, too, that percentage changes in figures for each council should be put into context as, for example, in Aberdeenshire, an increase of seven persistent offenders would mean a 233 per cent rise while a reduction of nine in Glasgow would be just 4 per cent.

COSLA says the impact of recent initiatives by the Scottish Executive has yet to be seen and evidence of their positive impact would become apparent only in the longer-term but they are extreme measures for extreme situations and councils would use them only as and when necessary. Local authorities believed, however, that these measures should not become a replacement for prevention and diversion, which were still the only sustainable way of reducing offending and persistent offending.