Letter: Covert police tactics beyond legal control

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The Independent Online
Sir: In your leading article on Jack Straw's proposals to tackle juvenile offending (4 March), you say that the facts of youth crime justify Mr Straw's "song and dance" about the issue. The trouble is that the facts are extremely difficult to interpret.

The Criminal Statistics, for example, show a marked decline in the number of 10-to-13-year-olds convicted or cautioned in the years since 1985. The numbers of 14-to-17-year-olds convicted or cautioned has remained more or less constant over that period.

It is said that the greater use of informal action by the police may explain these trends. But as they stand, the statistics do not warrant the feverish language about young people and crime to which politicians of both main parties now seem to be addicted.

STEPHEN SHAW

Director

Prison Reform Trust

London EC1

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