Early intervention is key to preventing offending among children and young people.

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The Department of Justice has today released statistics on the number of first time offenders in Northern Ireland.

These statistics show that 9.7% of those on record were aged 10-17.

Start360 Service Manager Ronan McGinley said, ‘Start360 believes the best way to lower the offending rate among our young people is by providing much needed support at an earlier stage. There are often signs that a young person is heading toward this negative lifestyle, and much more needs to be done to intervene at the earliest opportunity.

‘At Start360, we try to do this through services such as EDGES, identifying the need for early support and putting it in place for children and their families. We should be preventing these situations from escalating.’

We are strong advocates in the Raise the Age campaign. At Start360, we believe the age of criminal responsibility should be raised so that children can be treated like children. At times when children have made mistakes they need our support, and we should be in a position to offer it.

It is also noteworthy that first time offences made up just over 30% of the total offences recorded. Start360’s ADJUST and AD:EPT2 throughcare services work with both young offenders and adults across the prison service to prevent reoffending – the results of both services have seen a major decrease in the number of those returning to custody.