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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Youth Justice Board's Budget Reduced by 45% since 2010/11

The Youth Justice Board has released their Corporate Plan and Business Plan which can be found HERE. The Youth Justice Board is a public body whose members are appointed by the Secretary of State for Justice. The main responsibilities are to oversee the youth justice system in England and Wales, work with others to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under the age of 18, and to ensure that custody for young people is safe, secure, and addresses the causes of their offending behavior. Visit their website HERE

The YJB has announced in their 2014-2017 Corporate and Business plan that they will be focusing on reducing reoffending of young people by improving resettlement strategies for young people who are released from custody, increasing educational opportunities while in custody, ensuring young people are placed at the secure estates that best suit them, and by creating the secure college pathfinder to be built in spring 2017. More information about the secure college can be found HERE.

In addition to working closely with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Secretary of State for Justice, the YJB also works with the Home Office. Their mission with the Home Office is to 'prevent anti-social behavior and youth crime, including youth violence and support the delivery of the cross-departmental Ending Gang and Serious Youth Violence strategy and related work to prevent the sexual exploitation of girls'. This is undertaken even though the Home Office has withdrawn all financial support to the YJB this year.

In addition to working with the Home Office, the YJB also works with:
  • Young Offenders - to get their opinion on youth justice and youth offending.
  • The Department of Health - to ensure there are mental health and substance misuse services available to young people in the youth justice system.
  • Department of Education - to ensure education services meet the needs of children and young people.
  • Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) - to support YOT objectives and also make sure YOTs are evaluated and performing to high standards.
  • Secure Accommodation Providers - such as the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), local authorities and private sectors.
  • Voluntary Sectors - with around 6,000 volunteers to support initiatives such as restorative justice, act as appropriate adults for young people in custody, mentors, in prevention or education schemes and with families. If you are interested in volunteering, click HERE
  • Adacemic Community - to ensure that advice and guidance is based upon the latest UK and international research.
The main objectives in their Business plan for 2014/15 are as follows:
  1. Improvement in the delivery of the youth justice system in the community.
  2. To create an under-18 secure estate that better meets the needs of young people.
  3. To make structural and process improvements that support a better youth justice system.
  4. Make sure young people are placed efficiently in the most appropriate establishment.
  5. The safety and well-being of children and young people in the youth justice system is assured.
  6. Practitioners have access to the best advice and support, and use this in practice.
  7. The YJB is seen as an effective and efficient public body.
Needless to say, the YJB has a lot on their plate over the next year. However, their report has indicated that by the end of 2014/15, they will have 'delivered cumulative savings of £525m, with a budget now £210m (45%) less than the 2010/11 baseline'.

This is the breakdown of expenses and savings made:

The YJB is now solely funded by the MoJ following 'the transfer of the Home Office prevention funding from the YJB to police and crime commissioners'. <--- This is another topic for another day...   

One finding based on recent Youth Justice statistics is that there has been a decrease in the number of First Time Entrants (FTEs) into youth custody. This was seen as a result of the positive work of the YJB, which I am sure some of it was. However, in their business plan, the YJB openly admits that in order to deal with the financial challenges stated above, they have incorporated a strategy which is to: 'Maximise savings from having fewer young people in custody by decommissioning beds in the under-18 secure estate'. Well...if you have less money and there are less spaces available in custody for young offenders, then obviously there will be a reduction in the number of FTEs. Is this reduction really an outcome of best practice, or is it simply the outcome of a reduced budget?

This isn't to take away from the hard work that the YJB does to help prevent offending and re-offending. Instead, it is a means to provide a clearer picture of what is really going on and to help us understand that while we are being told that more is being done to help young people in England and Wales, the government is actually spending LESS money on young people at risk of offending and re-offending. It is also important to consider whether or not the government is perhaps embellishing the results of their youth offending statistics by taking credit for the reduction in FTEs, when in reality it is very likely the result of budget cuts and fewer available spaces in youth custody.

A. Neaverson

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Want to know why sharing the video of James Foley's murder is illegal?

According to an article published in the Guardian Wednesday 20 August 2014 "passing on clips of Isis militant murdering US journalist on social media could lead to prosecution under anti-terror laws".

(Photo from The Guardian, Credit Nicole Tung/AP)

According to the Guardian, Scotland Yard has indicated that under terrorism legislation, sharing or viewing the video of James Foley's Murder is illegal. Social Media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are working hard to suspend accounts and remove offensive images. At first, these images were being removed for being 'offensive' and going against their user agreements; but now with legal backing, the clampdown on social media is heightened.

More specifically, according to The Guardian, the Metropolitan police said in a statement: "The MPS counter-terrorism command (SO15) is investigating the contents of the video that was posted online in relation to the alleged murder of James Foley. We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under terrorism legislation".

SO15 is responsible for protecting London and the UK from threats of terrorism. You can find out more about them HERE. I wanted to understand more about why sharing and 'viewing' the video could be considered a crime, and also what part of the Terrorism Legislation sharing videos or pictures falls under.

Having looked at, it appears that Section 1 and Section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006 cover areas that are related to the 'Encouragement of Terrorism". Section 1 starts by saying that Encouragement of Terrorism applies to
"a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences".
It continues:
"A person commits an offence if (a) he publishes a statement to which this section applies or causes another to publish such a statement; and (b) at the time he publishes it or causes it to be published he - (i) intends members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism or Convention offences; or (ii) is reckless as to whether members of the public will be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate such acts or offences".  
If you are re-tweeting something or sharing it on Youtube or Facebook, you are at risk of being seen to make a statement that could be understood by members of the public to be 'directly or indirectly encouraging others or instigating acts of terrorism'. Its possible that by sharing the video and photos, you are fueling feelings of hate which could lead to a reaction. However, even if you DONT end up encouraging someone to 'commit, prepare or instigate any such offence' you can still get in trouble because as stated in subsection 5:
It is irrelevant for the purposes of subsections (1) to (3) (a) whether anything mentioned in those subsections relates to the commission, preparation or instigation of one or more particular acts of terrorism.... (b) whether any person is in fact encouraged or induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate any such act of offence".  
So what this means is that if you share videos or photos, you can be held criminally responsible even if there is no outcome based on your actions. But why do the Met Police warn about viewing videos? This part comes down to the way that Social Media is designed. On Facebook, for example, if you view a video, sometimes this shows up on your 'Facebook Friends' newsfeeds. On Youtube, if you view a video, it increases that video's count which means it moves up in the list of 'search results' which are based on most popular videos. Although it is a stretch, there are still ways that even viewing a video can result in you sharing content which, under the Terrorism Act 2006 is illegal.

If you are still not convinced by this social media crackdown and insist on Freedom of Speech and being able to watch and share what you want, you might want to consider the potential outcomes first. According to Section 1 subsection 7:
A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable - (a) on conviction of indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years or to a fine or both; (b) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum...
Furthermore, Section 2 deals specifically with Dissemination of terrorist publications and subsection 2 states:
...a person engages in conduct falling within this subsection if he - (a) distributes or circulates a terrorist publication; (b) gives, sells or lends such a publication (c) offers such a publication for sale or loan; (d) provides services to others that enables them to obtain, read, listen to or look at such a publication, or to acquire it by means of a gift, sale or loan; (e) transmits the contents of such a publication electronically; or (f) has such a publication in his possession with a view to its becoming the subject of conduct falling within any of paragraphs (a) to (e).
It finishes with: ...
'publication' means an article or record of any description that contains any of the following, or any combination of them - (a) matter to be read; (b) matter to be listened to; (c) matter to be looked at or watched.

This section relates a lot more to the actions that are most likely to be taken across social media platforms. The same sentences apply if a person is found guilty of the offences listed above.

Besides the moral issues surrounding instances of people sharing this video and photos, there are also many legal considerations as well which are leading us into a whole new wave of criminal offences based on technological advances.

A Neaverson 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Crime Statistics in England and Wales - July 2014 Trends

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released current crime statistics which are accompanied by a short video interview with John Flatley, Head of Crime Statistics at ONS HERE. I am surprised that there hasn't been much media coverage, given that the Crime Survey has found such a large decrease in crime when compared to previous years.  

In a report issued by the ONS, Crime has fallen 14% in England and Wales. This percentage is based on the Crime Survey which is distributed to members of the public, and is different from Police Recorded Crimes. The crime survey is based on Victim reported crimes and can include crimes that have not come to the attention of police. This is the lowest estimate of crime since the survey began in 1981. The Crime Survey reports that Violent Crime has fallen by 20%, criminal damage fell by 17% and theft offences decreased by 10% when compared with the previous year.

Police recorded Crimes are crimes that have been brought to the attention of the police and have been formally processed. According to Police Recorded Crime Statistics, there has been no overall change from the previous year. This could be because of the 7% increase in Police Recorded shoplifting offences as well as an increase in offences of Fraud (17%). Sometimes considered 'victimless crimes', these crimes would not be represented as much in the Crime Survey (which we know is completed by Victims). Finally, police recorded sexual offences also saw a rise of 20% from the previous year, which is believed to be an outcome of Operation Yewtree (Jimmy Savile inquiry).

For more information and updated Crime Statistics, please visit the Office for National Statistics by clicking HERE 
A. Neaverson