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Topic on a Page - Young People in the Criminal Justice System

Data Sources:

Public Health England: Public Health Profiles

Youth Justice Annual Statistics: Ministry of Justice – Youth Justice Board for England and Wales

Youth Justice Profiles from Public Health England

Association for Young People's Health:

Key data on Young People 2017

Supporting Information:


Pathway: Harmful Sexual Behaviour among children and young people

Pathway: Social and emotional wellbeing for children and young people overview

Pathway: Antisocial behaviour and conduct disorders in children and young people overview

Pathway: Attachment difficulties in children and young people overview

Pathway: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder overview

Pathway: Looked-after babies, children and young people overview

Pathway: Drug Misuse Prevention Overview

Pathway: Child abuse and Neglect Overview

Guideline: Antisocial behaviour and conduct disorders in children and Young People: recognition and management [CG158] April 2017

Guideline: Harmful sexual behaviour among children and young people [NG55] September 2016

National Children's Bureau:

Young People in the Justice System

Youth Justice

National Youth Justice Board (YJB):

Youth Justice Resource Hub

NHS Evidence:

Children and Young People in the Criminal Justice System

Young Offenders

Youth Justice

Secure Accommodation

HM Government:

Criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults: county lines

Youth Justice Resources

The Work of Youth Offending Teams to Protect the Public: inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation

Analysis of trends in first time entrants to the youth justice system

Concordat on children in custody

HM Government: Serious Violence Strategy

Detention Services Order 19/2012 Safeguarding Children Policy

Lincolnshire County Council:

An insight into the Health Needs of Young People who offend in LincolnshireAn Insight into the Health Needs of Young People who Offend in Lincolnshire (2018)


Barnardo's: National Information Centre on Children of Offenders

Linked Topics:

Topic last reviewed: Feb-19

JSNA Topic: Young People in the Criminal Justice System


The formal Youth Justice System (YJS) begins once a child or young person aged 10 or over (and under the age of 18) has committed an offence and receives a youth caution, a youth conditional caution or is convicted at court. However, some children and young people will be in contact with the police or the youth preventative/early support services even though they are not in the formal youth justice system.

Children and young people in contact with the youth justice system often have more severe, health and wellbeing needs than other children of their age. They frequently face a range of other, often entrenched, difficulties, including school exclusion, fragmented family relationships, bereavement, unstable living conditions, poor or harmful parenting that might be linked to parental poverty, substance misuse and mental health problems.

Approximately one third of the Youth Offending Service (YOS) cohort are known to be in contact with Children's Services in various forums such as Child Protection, Child in Need and Early Help. It is vital that work with children in this area recognises their unique needs and raises aspiration.

Effective intervention at this crucial juncture maximises the prospects to ensure the best possible outcomes for children and young people in Lincolnshire by ensuring they maximise every opportunity to prevent their talent and potential being unfulfilled.


National Strategies, Policies & Guidance 

Crime and Disorder Act (1998) places a statutory duty of local authorities to provide a Youth Justice Service. Section 39 of the Act requires areas to establish a Youth Offending Team, and Section 40 requires that each year, a Youth Justice Plan is formulated and implemented.

Youth Justice Board for England and Wales Strategic Plan 2018- 21 outlines how the Youth Justice Board will support the youth justice system to continue to work effectively with children and young people who have offended or at risk of offending.

Pathway - Helping children to be safer, healthier and free of crime (2015). This joint NHS and Public Health document provides guidance to professionals working with young people who are in the youth justice system or at risk of being involved.

Antisocial behaviour and conduct disorders in children and young people: recognition and management [CG158], NICE 2017. This guideline covers recognising and managing antisocial behaviour and conduct disorders in children and young people aged under 19. It aims to improve care by identifying children and young people who are at risk and when interventions can prevent conduct disorders from developing. The guideline also makes recommendations on communication, to help professionals build relationships with children and young people and involve them in their own care.

Health of people in the criminal justice system (NICE Pathway 2018). This pathway provides information on all the publications produced by NICE on managing the physical and mental health of adults and young people in the criminal justice system.

Young lives behind bars (British Medical Association, 2014). This report provides an overview of the complex reasons why children and young people offend, their multiple needs and the challenges they present. In addition, it makes a number of recommendations intended to support individual practitioners, working both within the community and in custodial settings.

Strategic Direction for Health Services in the Justice System (NHSE 2016). This strategic document outlines how health and care services, in all setting of the criminal justice system, need to evolve. It sets out the seven strategic priorities that NHSE will focus on to reduce health inequalities experienced.

Local Strategies & Plans

Lincolnshire Youth Offending Service Strategic Service Plan 2017/18
This plan sets out priorities for Lincolnshire's Youth Offending Service (YOS). It focuses upon the everyday interactions with children and young people in terms of safeguarding and minimising and curtailing their involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour.

CAMHS Local Transformation Plan
Key agencies in Lincolnshire have come together to plan, develop and design a single approach to transform mental health and wellbeing services for Lincolnshire Children and Young People. This Transformation Plan is consistent with the strategic outlook described in the multi-agency led Lincolnshire Crisis Care Concordat.

The Lincolnshire Youth Offending Service (YOS) works in partnership with criminal justice services and with services for children and young people including the Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB), Lincolnshire County Community Safety Board, the Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs), the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) and the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children's Board. YOS priorities are reflected in these strategic arrangements and plans.

YOS has an overarching goal to ensure that young people within the youth justice system are supported to change their behaviour, realise their potential and make a positive contribution to the community. It is also committed to underpin any future practice with the core principles including restorative and family centred approach, develop the use of relationship based practice and utilise a strengths based approach to promote desistance from criminal behaviour.

What is the picture in Lincolnshire?

What the data is telling us

In Lincolnshire, the number of first time entrants to the youth justice system was 334.9 per 100,000 (2017), higher than the rates for England and the East Midlands at 292.5 and 276.8 respectively. (Source: Public Health England)

The number of 15 year olds with 3 or more risky behaviours is 16.9% (2014/15) compared to the England average of 15.9%. (Source: Public Health England)

In 2017, the number of young people, aged 10 -17 years old, in Lincolnshire receiving a conviction in court who are sentenced to custody was 0.35 per 1,000 population. This is lower than both the regional and national rates of 0.36 and 0.41 per 1,000 population respectively. (Source: Local Authority Interactive Tool (LAIT))

The proportion of young offenders, aged 10 -14 years old, who re-offended is 33.3% (2016), which is lower than the East Midlands (40.8%) and England (39.6%). (Source: LAIT)

Similarly, the proportion of young offenders, aged 15 -17 years old, who re-offended was 33.6% (2016), lower than the East Midlands (39.1%) and England (40.5%). (Source: LAIT)

In 2018, Lincolnshire Public Health and Youth Offending Service undertook an assessment of the health needs of young people who offend in Lincolnshire. Key findings from that report include:

  • Between the period January 2017 to February 2018, 419 young people were involved with the Youth Offending Service. 321 (76.8%) were male and 98 (23.4%) were female.
  • The majority (73%) were recorded as being 'White British'. 9.3% of those were of unknown origin.
  • The highest rate of youth offending was in Gainsborough South West
  • South Holland and the East coast have the highest numbers of children in the youth justice system
  • 28% of those young people were identified as having a special educational need or disability. Also see JSNA Special Educational Needs and Disability topic.
  • 12.1% of this cohort has a diagnosed mental health condition. This is higher than the estimated prevalence in Lincolnshire (9.4%) and England average (9.2%).
  • 31.3% of the cohort were reported to have a history of, or be at risk of self-harm (30.5%). 15.5% of those young people were identified as being at risk of suicide. Also see JSNA Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing (Children and Young People) topic.
  • There is a high prevalence of substance misuse amongst this group (71.2%). 17% (46 young people) had both substance misuse and identified mental health concerns.
  • Of the 563 offences with a conviction during 2017/18, the largest category was for 'Violence against the Person' at 135 (24%); followed by 'Motoring Offences at 107 (20%); and 'Criminal Damage' at 61 (11%).
  • 8.5% (23) of the youth justice cohort are accommodated by a Section 20 order and are classed as Looked After Children, with a further 12.1% (33) previously accommodated by a S20 order. Also see JSNA Looked After Children topic. The HNA also provides information on children and young people identified as Section 17 Children in Need and Section 31 Care Orders.
  • 28.6% of children offended once and 71.6% committed five or less offences.
  • The majority of outcomes following offences were out of Court Disposals that did not result in a criminal conviction; i.e. Youth Restorative Disposals which accounted for 40.5% of all outcomes.

For further information see the Health Needs of Young People who offend in Lincolnshire Report (2018)


Over the last twelve years, offending in Lincolnshire, by 10 -17 year olds, has dropped considerably. The number of young people committing offences has fallen by nearly 88% since 2005/6. Also, over the last 12 months the offending population has again shown a small reduction, by 11 people from the previous year and at the same time, the number of proven offences committed by young people has fallen by 117 over the previous 12 months, most likely due to the successful introduction of Joint Diversionary Panels. (Source: Health Needs of Young People who offend in Lincolnshire Report (2018))

Offending trends by young people in Lincolnshire are aligned with a regional decrease in youth crime. The proportion of young people formally entering the system is continuing to decline as is the number of young people in custody. The rate of re-offending continues to remain a focus as this has started to drift upwards as has the complexity of young people within the system. There has been an increase in the use of restorative sanctions utilised by the Police which enable greater discretion and promote an effective resolution for victims of crime.

Further trend data is available in the Local Authority Interactive Tool

Key Inequalities

The Youth Offending Service (YOS) client group profile remains predominantly white British, male and within the 15 to 18 age range. Typically the YOS will work with people up to the age of 18, but going beyond the 18th birthday in cases where interventions are on- going or where issues such as mental health or learning difficulties mean that a probation referral would be inappropriate for a young adult.

The health issues seen in the youth justice population are similar to those seen in the wider youth population. However, the youth justice population experience more health problems, and of a more severe nature compared to their non-offending counterparts. The Health Needs of Young People who offend in Lincolnshire Report (2018) shows that the youth offender population in Lincolnshire experience high levels of health needs, as well as a wide range of social problems and the effects of deprivation.

Current Activity & Services

The service works within the wider Children Services directorate and there are exciting opportunities which have emerged through the Partner in Practice project around the management of adolescent risk and promoting a truly integrated approach in working with young people and their families.

One such initiative is the creation of the Joint Diversionary Panel in 2017 which has undoubtedly started to change the profile of the youth justice cohort. It is vital that prevention and diversion are a fundamental aspect of our work and that are resources are deployed appropriately and proportionately. However the local authority faces a challenge in addressing a cohort of adolescents engaged in risk taking behaviour and this has become a primary focus.

A number of these young people have multiple and complex risk factors and generate a significant social and economic cost which requires a new approach to change the trajectory of their behaviour and improve outcomes for their longer term future. The service worked in collaboration with the Children's Safeguarding Board to develop and sign off a multi-agency protocol to reduce the criminalisation of children in residential care. The protocol recognises the distinct vulnerabilities of this cohort and will ensure that wherever possible a restorative approach is offered to ensure that young people are not drawn into the formal criminal justice system.

Lincolnshire YOS have been fully engaged with the local SEND service, in ensuring that children and young people with special educational needs are not going astray, i.e. through regular data exchange and close ties between both agencies.

Also, the YOS recently launched e-learning training for all case managers, using the SEND Bubble online training and resource system. The training is designed to promote reflective practice, empowering individuals and teams to identify where practice is successful, and (more importantly) where practice needs to be improved: then select and implement actions that are appropriate to the setting, to the challenges faced by the setting, and the context in which it operates. The work with children with SEND was highlighted within the recent Ofsted inspection in 2018.

Commissioning arrangements for substance misuse provision remains with Addaction. Addaction currently provide 6 substance misuse workers whose role it is to ensure access to mainstream substance misuse provision and also incorporate specific referrals from the YOS and subsequent interventions. Addaction staff support the service by delivering sessions to young people specifically around harmful substances and the risks presented by their use, and by providing training sessions for staff to ensure they remain abreast of new drug trends.

Overarching support to the youth justice cohort is provided by the extensive core CAMHS Service providing support for mild to moderate emotional well-being and mental health problems. This also includes moderate, acute and severe, complex and/or enduring mental health problems or disorders.

Lincolnshire Children Services commissions a dedicated Clinical Psychologist who is also supported through the CAMHS contract by 2 Associate Practitioners to support engagement with a complex YOS and adolescent risk cohort. Consultation & advice is provided by the Clinical Psychologist within a consultation clinic model as well as links to Forensic Supervision with a Consultant Forensic Psychologist & Specialist HSB Worker from CAMHS if needed.

The Youth Offending Service provide a wider range of specialist workers all trained in assessing harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) and Technology Assisted HSB. They work jointly with the YOS and social work staff in conducting a multi-disciplinary assessment of risk around these behaviours.

The service has links with the East Midlands Forensic CAMHS Service (F-CAMHS) which is a specialist multi-disciplinary team which has been created to support children or young adults up to 18 years old who exhibit risky behaviours which could lead to offending. The team also support those who are already in the youth justice system and have, or do, display signs of mental health difficulties.

Collaborative commissioning with Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust (via NHS England Health and Justice funding) has resulted in the recruitment of an additional Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Psychologist for two years. NHS England funding has also secured 2 Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) within Lincolnshire and aims to further improve access to this service for those adults specifically demonstrating risk taking behaviours.

The 'Secure Stairs' model commissioned by NHS England Secure provides an integrated care framework that addresses the needs of children and young people in Secure Children’s Homes, Secure Training Centres and Young Offender Institutions. This includes at HMYOI Wetherby and at the Sleaford Secure Children's Home where Lincolnshire children may be located either on remand or post sentence.

This framework allows for a joined up approach to assessment, sentence / intervention planning and care, including specialist input from mental health staff regardless of previous diagnosis, as well as from social care professionals, education professionals and the operational staff working on a day-to-day basis at the setting. This model also supports effective resettlement through timely information sharing, preparation for release and a smooth transition between custody/community services.

Unmet Needs & Gaps

Liaison and Diversion (L&D) services identify people who have mental health, learning disability, substance misuse or other vulnerabilities when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system as suspects, defendants or offenders. The service can then support people through the early stages of criminal system pathway, refer them for appropriate health or social care or enable them to be diverted away from the criminal justice system into a more appropriate setting, if required.

Liaison and Diversion services aim to improve overall health outcomes for people and to support people in the reduction of re-offending. It also aims to identify vulnerabilities in people earlier on which reduces the likelihood that people will reach a crisis-point and helps to ensure the right support can be put in place from the start.

Formal Liaison and Diversion Services are still being scoped in Lincolnshire and work is currently taking place to inform the service specification and future implementation. Consultation and planning has now commenced with key partners to implement this model in Lincolnshire.

Speech and language needs have been identified by professionals as a key issue for young people in contact with the YOS. The forthcoming recruitment of specialist workers in in Lincolnshire will provide vital support in this area to young people.

Whilst a considerable focus and resource has been directed towards the emotional health and well-being of this cohort, it is important to ensure that physical and sexual health is also prioritised. This includes supporting access to physical health appointments and engagement in physical activities and also accessing GP appointments or GP registration. Work will be undertaken to ensure appropriate partnership links and timely access to these services for the youth justice cohort.

Local Views & Insights

The Youth Offending Service sits within the Children's Services Directorate. Lincolnshire YOS is governed by a Management Board, which is chaired by the Executive Director Finance and Public Protection. Membership consists of representatives from the National Probation Service (HMPPS), Community Rehabilitation Company, the Clinical Commissioning Group, Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust, Lincolnshire Children's Services, Lincolnshire Police, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), Police and Crime Commissioner and elected members from Lincolnshire County Council.

It is this Board that has the statutory responsibility for the strategic direction of Youth Offending within the County. The service participates in court user forums in Lincolnshire to ensure a key relationship is sustained with both magistrates and judges who sentence children and young people. This serves to inform around emerging risks and service priorities but also to provide training where in key areas such as mental health, learning disability and communication.

The service collects feedback in various formats both from service users, parents/carers and victims to reflect and provide assurance upon the quality of work carried out with young people.

Overall, the data suggests that young people significantly value the relationship they have with practitioners, understood the purpose of their supervision and how this contributed to reduce the risk of further offending. A significant majority of those young people believed that the service they were provided with by the Youth Offending Service was either very good or good.

An engagement exercise was undertaken with young people, their parents and case workers in 2018 to inform the health needs report. An analysis of the feedback is available in the report.

Risks of not doing something

Children and young people in contact with the youth justice system are more likely to have mental health problems than those who are not. They are also more likely to have more than one mental health problem, to have neurodevelopmental and learning disabilities/difficulties, to have problematic drug and alcohol misuse and to have experienced a range of other challenges, such as exclusion from school, homelessness, bereavement, trauma and being in care.

Many of these health and social care needs go unrecognised and unmet. There is, therefore, a need for comprehensive screening and assessment throughout the youth justice system. The risks of unmet needs persisting into late adolescence/adulthood and can lead to a wide range of adverse outcomes, such as continuing/worsening mental health problems, unemployment, teenage parenthood, marital problems, suicide and self-harm and further criminal activity.

What is coming on the horizon?

In January 2019 Lincolnshire Children Services launched Future4Me which is a new innovative service delivery model designed to provide an effective response to those adolescents engaging in risk taking behaviour. This cohort represents a strategic priority within the local authority and has the potential to generate significant demands upon resources and also incur a large financial impact.

This objective is being progressed through the Partners in Practice work streams in collaboration with the Department for Education (Dfe) and will be independently evaluated. Our work is enabling us to consider the development and trialling of an alternative assessment framework that best meets the needs of children and young people. The service has also successfully obtained grants from NHS England to provide additional resources around psychology and speech and language to ensure we address the root causes of behaviour to promote long lasting change.

Whilst the Youth Offending Service was established within a criminal justice context, it has a clear duty around safeguarding and Future4Me will be working to ensure the safety of a vulnerable and complex cohort. This should therefore include a strong focus upon key areas including children missing, exploitation (criminal and sexual), accommodation, school exclusion, substance misuse and mental health. The needs of young people within the adolescent risk cohort are complex and wide ranging and are best managed through multi- agency/multi-disciplinary co-operation. These needs cannot be effectively addressed within a single agency approach and work best if supported by strong partnership and governance with all partners contributing fully.

Within the creation of the new adolescent risk model, there was a clear need to secure a new strategic governance framework in Lincolnshire which has an oversight of those key areas of risk but crucially has a much wider remit that extends beyond a youth justice/criminal justice focus. Work has been undertaken with the YOS management board to ensure the board provides that governance structure and oversight as our work develops.

What should we be doing next?

The health needs report makes the following recommendations:

  • Consider how the Asset Plus assessment and subsequent intervention plans can be used to maximise protective factors for this vulnerable group of children and young people, working with all relevant services such as schools, social care, early help and parenting support and youth services.
  • Work with health commissioners and providers to ensure that the workforce is cognisant of health and social care issues that young people in the vulnerable group face, including an awareness of trauma informed practice in line with priorities set out by the NHS in its plan for a Strategic Direction for Health Services in the Justice System.
  • Use brief interventions using the Children's Making Every Contact Count programme to initiate change for an unhealthy or risky behaviour from case workers, as well as other health professionals.
  • Promote the use of emotional wellbeing (Healthy Minds) services to increase mental wellbeing and resilience.
  • Consider how young people can be supported to access services in a timely manner, such as health care and preventative services such as sexual health to improve physical wellbeing.
  • Promote sport and other social activities through intervention plans to improve both physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Develop specific questions on communication abilities or difficulties within, or at the same time as, completion of the Asset Plus assessment to ascertain a more accurate level of need.


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