Overseas trips for teenage offenders halted after outcry

GLOUCESTERSHIRE social services yesterday banned any further overseas trips aimed at changing young offenders' behaviour until the policy has been reviewed.

The move follows protests from ministers and Tory backbenchers over the disclosure that a 17-year-old boy was arrested for suspected drink- driving less than a week after returning from an 80-day journey through six African countries at cost of pounds 7,000 to the taxpayer.

But despite the ban, which will stay until the social services department presents its report in March, the local authority stoutly defended the use of the Bryn Melyn project, set up by Brendan McNutt, its principal, which operates from a former farmhouse near Bala in north Wales.

The therapy - which involved the boy in a 13,000-mile journey through Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe accompanied by a social worker - has proved more successful at stopping young people reoffending than sending them to secure accommodation.

Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, attempted to deflect criticism by saying that guidelines would shortly be issued to local authorities urging them to ensure that children involved in wrongdoing should not feel rewarded by the actions.

But it appears the guidelines, to be issued primarily by the education department, deal with the behaviour and discipline of problem pupils rather than young offenders.

Michael Howard, the Home Secrtary, said that a section of the Criminal Justice Bill would give courts the power to direct the sentencing of young offenders like the 17-year-old, rather than leaving it to the discretion of local authorities as happens now.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested on Monday evening when he failed a breath-test. He is awaiting sentence for a series of offences including ram-raiding, burglary, affray and obstructing police.

He was due for sentence in the week before Christmas but missed the hearing because he was abroad on the trip designed to confront his unacceptable behaviour and reform his character - a situation which those who run the Bryn Melyn project say it is not possible to recreate here.

Anne Peniket, chairman of Gloucestershire's social services committee, said the council had used the centre, at a cost of pounds 1,800 a week, in only a few of the most serious cases where the only alternative would have been secure accommodation at a cost of at least pounds 2,000 a week.

She said secure accommodation had been shown to be far less effective, with about 80 per cent of inmates reoffending, compared with 20 per cent of those who attended Bryn Melyn.

However, Fred Davies, Gloucestershire's deputy director of social services, said that because of concern raised by the latest case, a review of the policy was being conducted and no more juvenile offenders would travel abroad in the meantime.

Mr Howard said that those responsible for the trip, which included a safari in Kenya and a journey to the pyramids, had 'more money than sense'.

Sir Ivan Lawrence, Tory MP for Burton and chairman of the all-party Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs, said: 'It offers reward for wrongdoing and if it does not really work then it really does prove that the whole thing is a waste of time and money.'

Harry Greenway, Tory MP for Ealing North, said: 'The practice . . . is now proved to be a massive and costly failure.' He intends to table questions in the House of Commons.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie