New moves to toughen youth crime sentences

THE Home Office is considering new measures to fight juvenile crime, as part of a criminal justice legislation package expected in the autumn.

The measures, which have emerged from a review that began in January, are designed to assuage increasing public disquiet about the number of serious crimes committed by those aged under 18.

Measures being canvassed by Home Office officials include expanding the category of offences which are punished with long custodial sentences.

At present, offenders aged under 18 are detained at length for crimes such as murder, rape and manslaughter. It is understood that other crimes of violence, such as aggravated assault, may be added to this list.

There could also be a case for establishing a national detention centre for girls aged 12 to 15 who persistently offend.

Home Office sources have also confirmed that a 'caution plus' scheme is under consideration - this would probably involve juveniles who commit minor offences being sentenced to perform community work, rather than being 'let off' with a caution.

Officials are also known to be unhappy about an anomaly which means that those aged 12 to 14 can be sentenced to up to two years' custody, whereas 15-year-olds face a maximum sentence of one year for similar offences.

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