Council to focus on youth crime

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The Independent Online
THE LOCAL authority that paid pounds 7,000 to send a teenage offender on an 80-day trip to Africa, yesterday announced that it was holding a seminar to decide how it deals with delinquents in future.

Gloucestershire County Council has already banned such trips until after a review of its policy on young offenders, which will be discussed at next month's seminar and decided by the social services committee in March.

Deryk Mead, the director of social services, denied the council was soft on young criminals and said it had never allowed them to take 'holidays' abroad. He said the authority did agree to alternative approaches which sometimes used 'character-building trips abroad as part of a structured regime which addresses offending behaviour'.

The policy review was announced after controversy over therapy used by Bryn Melyn community centre near Bala in North Wales which takes some of the most 'challenging' young offenders.

Doubts were expressed about the effectiveness of such therapy, for which local authorities pay between pounds 1,600 and pounds 1,800 a week, after incidents in which boys allegedly reoffended almost immediately after such trips.

A 17-year-old boy who was sent to Bryn Melyn after committing a series of burglary and car-related offences, was arrested for an alleged drink- driving offence three days after returning from a trip to Africa, which included a safari in Kenya and cruise on the Nile.

Defending Gloucestershire's use of alternative treatments, Mr Mead said in a statement that the council was faced with two alternatives - 'either to lock the children up' in secure accommodation, which is particularly expensive - averaging around pounds 2,000 a week - 'or look for more radical alternatives'.