Young offenders held in custody at record low

Image caption More young offenders are being dealt with through community penalties

The number of young offenders in custody in England and Wales is at its lowest level for at least a decade.

The Ministry of Justice figures show there were 1,890 under-18s locked up in April - 193 fewer than the previous month.

The monthly figures published by the ministry date back to April 2000, when there were 2,610 under-18s in custody.

The figures are thought to reflect falling crime rates and a drive to use community sentences.

The figures for young offenders in custody peaked in 2007/-8 at an average of just over 3,000 and have been falling ever since.

When 18-year-olds are included, the figures show the numbers peaked in 2002/03 but are also now at a record low of 2,084.

Under-18s can be held in secure children's homes, secure training centres or young offender institutions, depending on their crimes and an assessment of what is the most appropriate way to deal with them.

Eight out of 10 under-18s in custody are in young offender institutions, with the majority being held under a detention and training order. This is a type of sentence given to offenders who cannot be safely managed through other means.

Although the vast majority of offenders in custody are white, there are disproportionate numbers of black and Asian young prisoners, when compared to their numbers in the general population.