Rising number of girl offenders in North Yorkshire sparks concerns

An unusually high proportion of girls are entering the criminal justice system in North Yorkshire (Photo: andrewmedina)
An unusually high proportion of girls are entering the criminal justice system in North Yorkshire (Photo: andrewmedina)

An officer’s report to a meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s corporate and partnerships scrutiny committee said the most recent Government figures showed while there had been an overall fall in the number of children receiving a caution or conviction for the first time in the year to last December, more than 29 per cent were girls, significantly exceeding national trends.

The report also highlights how some 63 per cent of the first time offences by girls aged ten to 17 were for “primary violent offences”, as opposed to 39 per cent for boys.

The report states: “Our data tells us that the town and Eastfield areas of Scarborough are particularly significant, both in the extent of social exclusion and the impact of this upon antisocial behaviour and crime trends.

“Some of those wards are ranked in the lowest of the national Index of multiple deprivation, and local children have grown-up in systemic, multi-generational social exclusion.”

The statistics come two years after research by criminal justice campaigners Agenda and Standing Committee for Youth Justice found as many as nine in ten girls in the criminal justice system may have experienced abuse.

The North Yorkshire committee will hear the service is the early stages of targeting action towards averting young females offending and is helping lead a national focus group exploring work with girls coming to the attention of the Youth Justice Service.

The report states: “As part of this development, we are aiming to explore examples of good practice, examine what is already working and enable the opportunity for sharing resources and evidence-based practice.

“We have been contacted by the Youth Justice Board who have now joined this focus group as they are keen to be part of this learning.”

Scarborough councillor and Labour group spokesman for children’s services John Ritchie said he shared the deep concerns that people have about increased female offending and violence.

He said: “The council needs to act quickly to find out the root causes of these problems and they need to alloocate adequate resources to make a difference. You would not want to see this as an increasing trend.

“There’s poverty across North Yorkshire, but the most problems happen to be in Scarborough – social exclusion, highest levels of fuel poverty, highest levels of crime – because there are deep-seated inbedded problems.”

Indy Cross, chief executive of Agenda Alliance, said tailored, early intervention and community projects were the answer to create a safer future, not life-defining imprisonment.

She added: “This is disappointing but not surprising. The new figures on girls offending in the Scarborough area tell a grim, complicated story of neglect and underinvestment. Our work with disadvantaged young women and girls shows they are at the sharpest end of the triple shock of austerity, the after effect of the pandemic and the cost of living. Evidence also shows that young women who use violence have themselves experienced it in their families and social circles.

“Their needs are too often overlooked and underserved by cash-strapped, one-size-fits all services. The marked rise in girls’ violence in and around Scarborough should be a warning of what happens when deprivation, poverty and linked social problems boil over.”