Youth crime: Justice process has its place, says minister

A VIBRANT youth service is a ‘great way’ to tackle issues of antisocial behaviour but ‘stronger interventions’ are required in a minority of cases, a Scrutiny panel has heard.

Deputy Jeremy Maçon. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30386037)
Deputy Jeremy Maçon. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30386037)

Education Minister Jeremy Maçon said tackling antisocial youth behaviour was about ‘understanding a range of issues to do with young people’ and having well-supported services.

The minister was responding to a question from Deputy Rob Ward at a Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel hearing yesterday. Deputy Ward said reports of children involved in antisocial behaviour were growing and asked Deputy Maçon what the ‘wider issues’ were that needed to be addressed ‘before we just simply punish more’.

Armed police arrested four teenagers last Thursday after numerous 999 calls concerning a group believed to be carrying weapons. And at the end of February, a store manager in one of SandpiperCI’s town outlets was allegedly physically assaulted by a group of young Islanders, according to managing director Mike Rutter, who claimed it was part of a wider reign of antisocial behaviour dating back months.

Responding to the panel, Deputy Maçon said: ‘I have always strongly come from the political belief that facilities for our young people and having a vibrant and well-supported youth service is a great way of tackling a lot of these issues.’

However, the Deputy accepted that ‘unfortunately there are a minority of young people where stronger interventions are required’. He said this could extend into the criminal-justice process, but this was ‘obviously something we try and steer our young people away from as much as possible’.

Deputy Maçon said they ‘cannot rule it out for a small number of young people’ and that this could be the ‘right thing’ for those individuals.

He said young people ‘aren’t going to be perfect’ and they ‘are going to make mistakes as well’, which he said was important to remember.

A round-table meeting, organised by children’s commissioner Deborah McMillan, is due to take place once Covid restrictions allow to look at the causes of youth crime.

The meeting will bring together the States police, the Probation Service, the Education Department, social workers and other organisations and could take place in May or June.

During the hearing, Deputy Maçon also said that a training scheme for abuse survivors, care leavers and those who want to work with children would be ‘a much better memorial’ to those who had suffered abuse in Jersey’s care system than a physical statue. The Deputy faced criticism for appearing to suggest recently that plans for a memorial to abuse survivors could move to the next phase despite initially indicating he would halt the proposals.

Clarifying his comments, Deputy Maçon said: ‘I think we just have to remember it’s such a sensitive area. There are some survivors who really don’t appreciate this subject being dragged up and raked over and over again. It does unfortunately make them relive their trauma and their experiences.’

Deputy Maçon said many survivors had expressed these views to him during a protest, which took place in October last year, against the construction of a memorial. A citizens’ panel recommended the construction of a memorial in the wake of the 2017 Independent Jersey Care Inquiry report.

The minister said for him a training scheme for survivors, care leavers and those wanting to work with children ‘would be a much better memorial’.

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