Young Criminals Should Get More Support

Early intervention helps stop young offenders descending into a life of crime, according to new research from experts in Portsmouth.

Forensic psychologists at the University of Portsmouth studied what impact intensive long-term intervention had on children aged from seven.

They found the number of crimes committed by youngsters dropped from an average three crimes a year to one for those who were supported, and rose to an average six crimes a year for those who were not supported. 

In the two-year study, Claire Nee and colleagues found there was clear and sustained improvement in most of the key measures of criminality if treatment and training was tailored to the offenders' needs. Dr Nee said: 

"Until now, very little was known about what reduces their risk of offending. Our results show a significant and sustained reduction in criminality among the young when individual characteristics, such as ability to learn, motivation and personality traits, are taken as seriously as assessing the risk they pose and their most basic needs. Children as young as seven are a small slice of the offending population as a whole, but we know that those who commit crimes when very young are tomorrow's most serious, violent and prolific law-breakers.''

She added that research showed that the earlier intervention was made, the greater the success in preventing the child from continuing a life of crime. 

She said: "Intervening early is money well spent. It is awful that despite its success, the project we studied has since been cut due to austerity measures. It had been going since 1999 and helped thousands of young kids from Portsmouth.'' 

Her study is published in the International Journal Of Offender Therapy And Comparative Criminology.