Teenage terrors 'should be caged'

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The Independent Online
Police chiefs in the north-east yesterday called for new laws so that the most persistent juvenile offenders can be kept locked up before being dealt with by courts.

The Northumbria force was the first in Britain to highlight the "mini crimewaves" of problem 13- to 14-year-olds who are constantly arrested and released to carry out more crime.

Now, with the problem becoming worse and indications of children as young as 10 starting on crimewaves, the force is calling for an overhaul of the justice system with faster processing and custody for young offenders in the same way that adult suspects are held.

At present, the majority of juvenile offenders have to be released pending court action because there are so few suitable secure places nationally for holding them. But while they are awaiting court action, the worst young villains carry on offending - statistics disclosed yesterday described a sample of 35 in the Northumbrian force area who were arrested a total of 639 times for more than 1,300 offences last year.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Brown said: "Unless we devise a way to deal quickly with repeat juvenile offenders, those intent on a criminal career progress at a terrifying pace...

"Our findings demonstrate that if you don't keep the nucleus of prolific offenders in custody they go straight out and commit a wide variety of further offences, often drawing other youngsters into criminality."

Mr Brown said during this repeat-offending, juveniles were liable to clock up so many crimes that by the time the system caught up with them, the courts could only "administer justice for a fraction of the offences. This makes a mockery of the criminal justice system, does nothing to discourage the individual, spreads fear of crime and adds to victims' frustration."

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