Justice secretary announces youth offenders strategy

Justice secretary Michael Matheson MSP
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson MSP

The Scottish government has launched a new five-year national strategy to prioritise preventative approaches to confront youth offending.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, opening the Annual National Youth Justice Conference this morning, announced the strategy while welcoming new figures showing the number of under-18s in custody has fallen by 70 per cent since 2011.

He credited the improvement to the “Whole System Approach” which has been in place since 2011, placing a focus on early and effective intervention and diversion as well as appropriate support to improve outcomes for young offenders.

The figures come from an independent evaluation conducted by the Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research.

Speaking at the Conference, Mr Matheson said: “These are significant achievements which have also made a major contribution to overall crime reductions in Scotland with recorded crime currently at a 40 year low.

“We are not complacent though and the new youth justice strategy launched today will continue to prioritise preventative approaches which confront offending in a constructive way - using an evidence-led, child-centred approach.”

The new strategy, titled Preventing offending: getting it right for children and young people, sets out three main priorities for the Scottish Government.

These include advancing the “Whole System Approach”, improving life chances for young people, and developing capacity and improvement throughout the youth justice sector.

The introduction to the report reads: “Our vision of Scotland as the best place to grow up extends to all of our children and young people.

“Scotland has a proud record of taking a holistic approach to the needs of children and young people. Where children are involved in or at risk of offending, evidence and experience tells us that we must remain committed to an integrated approach - tackling deeds while taking account of wider needs.

“We know that as far as possible children and young people should be kept out of the Criminal Justice System. Where offending does take place, effective and timely interventions are needed to address that behaviour and its causes.”

Ending his speech to Conference, Mr Matheson said: “I look forward to playing my part in helping to ensure Scotland is the best and safest place to grow up.”