Scottish Daily Mail

Anger at plan to put offenders under 25 in ‘secure care’, not jail

- By Graham Grant Home Affairs Editor

CRIMINALS up to the age of 25 should be spared prison in favour of ‘secure care’ as part of moves to provide ‘better support’ to young people, MSPs have said.

Some offenders would dodge jail if they are seen as having ‘additional support needs’.

A Scottish parliament committee made the recommenda­tion as it called for more flexibilit­y on sentencing – but warned that sending more young people to secure care would be costly.

The MSPs’ report comes amid a row over guidelines devised by the Scottish Sentencing Council.

They have led to some young criminals receiving lenient treatment – including rapist Sean Hogg, now 21, who was given community service. Vic witnesses tims’ campaigner Kenny Stewart has called for tougher sentences since his daughter Michelle was murdered in 2008. He said: ‘Yet more kidglove treatment for criminals is completely unacceptab­le.

‘The last thing we need is more soft-touch justice but that’s exactly what this report is recommendi­ng – and it is an insult to victims of crimes and their families.

‘People understand the difference between right and wrong from a young age and by 25 they might be fighting for their country and are probably paying taxes, or supporting families and paying mortgages.

‘The idea they shouldn’t be treated like adults by the justice system is bizarre.’

The Children (Care and Justice) Bill will amend existing legislatio­n so that only those aged 18 to 21 will be placed in Young Offender Institutes (YOIs), while under-18s will be placed in secure accommodat­ion.

But Holyrood’s criminal justice committee told ministers the decision on where to place young offenders should take an ‘individual­ised’ approach.

This would mean young people convicted of serious crimes – such as rape – could still be sent to a YOI or prison.

It would also mean a person with additional support needs who is aged between 19 and 25 – and convicted of a less serious crime – could be sent to a secure care environmen­t.

Responding to questions on the issue of age, Minister for Children and Young People Natalie Don told the committee: ‘We absolutely recognise that people under the age of 25 are still developing.’

The MSPs said ‘some wished the age range for this provision to be extended, perhaps up to 25 years of age, to bring this in line with the sentencing guidelines for young people issued by the Scottish Sentencing Council’.

Committee convener Audrey Nicoll said: ‘Secure care units can both protect the public and offer better care and support to young people.


‘However, evidence we received also pointed out that it costs about four times more to keep a young person in secure care than a prison and we are calling on the Scottish Government to ensure adequate resources are in place for any changes to be effectivel­y implemente­d.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘We have no plans to consider expanding secure care up to age 25.’

THE absurdity of lenient sentences for under-25s cannot be overstated – but MSPs are backing an even softer approach.

Guidelines devised by the Scottish Sentencing Council, set up by the SNP Government, have led to young criminals, including a child rapist, avoiding jail on the grounds of their alleged brain immaturity.

Now a Holyrood committee believes that for some supposedly lower-level criminals up to the age of 25, ‘secure care’ would be a better destinatio­n than a jail cell.

Victims are sure to disagree – Kenny Stewart, whose daughter was murdered, is appalled by the prospect of more ‘kidglove’ justice for young offenders.

He points out that at the age of 25 many people have the responsibi­lity of raising a family or paying a mortgage.

And yet we’re being asked to believe that criminals shouldn’t face tough punishment because their brains will not fully develop until their mid-twenties.

Humza Yousaf should resist MSPs’ calls for even softer justice and ensure that offenders are adequately punished for their crimes – regardless of their age.

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