Growing fury over 'soft' treatment

THE latest controversy over the apparently 'soft' treatment of young offenders has given vent to a head of steam that has built up as successive cases have come to light throughout the year, writes Ian MacKinnon.

A 15-year-old dragged the Bryn Melyn centre into the headlines in October when he was arrested for a string of offences after returning from an 11-week trip to Portugal.

Within a month of returning from the pounds 20,000-trip organised by Shropshire county council the boy was convicted of burglary, theft and interfering with a car.

Wirrall caused an outcry when its social services department hired a private plane at a cost of pounds 960 to fly four Merseyside youths to appear in court in Chichester, West Sussex.

Southwark council's decision to send a 16-year-old to the Caribbean for two weeks while on bail accused of arson also caused fury. His trip to Jamaica was part of a rehabilitation programme run by the residential home where he lived.

Sandwell council in the West Midlands provoked a storm when it said it planned to send a black teenager home to Jamaica to discover his roots after he had stolen cars and broken into public buildings.