The influence of popular punitivism in the 1990s led to England and Wales having one of the highest rates of child incarceration in Western Europe, despite arguably lower rates of offending behaviour (Junger-Tas et al., 1994; Gould and Payne, 2004). However, significant reductions in the child custodial population (those aged under 18) have been achieved recently, partly as a result of the impact of early intervention, prevention and diversionary programmes on the number of children and young people appearing at court (Chapter 1) and other changes in sentencing practice, such as the introduction of the YRO (Chapter 4). The average custodial population of under-18s has reduced by approximately 60 per cent from over 3000 in 2008 to 1544 in 2012/2013 (1708 if 18-year-olds held in the youth secure estate are included) (MoJ, 2014). However, the average custody rate (the proportion of sentences passed in court that are custodial) has remained relatively static over the last decade and was 6.4 per cent in 2012/2013; furthermore the average length of time spent in custody on a DTO has increased from 106 days in 2008/2009 to 115 days in 2012/2013 (MoJ, 2014). This may reflect changes in the population of young people appearing before the courts: as early intervention and prevention programmes and diversionary schemes divert young people from the courts, those who do come before the courts may have a greater history of offending and so receive harsher penalties (MoJ, 2013a); or it may reflect increasingly punitive attitudes towards those receiving custodial sentences.
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