Magistrates have said the island’s youth justice system for those under the age of 17 is ‘disjointed’ and requires ‘meaningful investment’.
Two areas that were highlighted that required improvement were the ‘totally limited and inadequate’ sentencing powers of magistrates and the ‘lack of early intervention’ to cut reoffending rates.
A committee looking into the subject included MHKs David Ashford and Stuart Peters. They were worried that the system was ‘going too soft’ with the measures that were proposed.
The chair of the magistrates’ youth panel, Lisa Horton, said: ‘Once a young person appears before myself or my colleagues, somewhere along that journey they have been failed.
‘Once a young person gets a criminal conviction of any kind, it can be extremely limiting for their future.’
The figures for juveniles appearing in court has risen almost every year in the last five years. In 2017, 91 young people appeared in court, that rose to 196 in 2018 and then 215 in 2019.
The deputy chair of the Isle of Man bench, Gill Eaton, admits that the figures became ‘somewhat distorted’ during the pandemic as it did show decline.
Giving evidence to the committee, Ruksana Kosser, a legal officer from England and clerk to the justices, said: ‘I see a system that is disjointed and cannot connect together to provide the service that young people involved in the system should expect or deserve.’ In conclusion the committee has said that more needs to be done to catch up to other justice systems.
Ms Kosser said:‘In my short time here in the island, the courts have made significant progress in reforming and modernising the way the juvenile court does with youths.
‘However, we have taken this as far as we can with available resources and facilities available to us.’
She also said: ‘On a legal standing, the courts can impose any of the sentences that are available to them.
‘However, in practice, it is a lack of resources that prevents us from doing this.’
The magistrates wants to use extra resources to, among other things, open more attendance centres which young offenders can attend regularly.