Family & Education

Child sex offenders may get specialist unit

Young person in handcuffs Image copyright Getty Images

The government is considering setting up a specialist unit for child sex offenders in England and Wales.

Youth Justice Minister Phillip Lee told MPs there had been a small rise in "dark" and "troubling" offences involving under 18-year-olds.

Dr Lee also wants "secure schools" to replace youth custody centres if a pilot scheme is successful.

He added that the firm G4S had failed to find a buyer for Oakhill secure training centre in Milton Keynes.

Giving evidence to the Commons Justice Select Committee, Dr Lee said there had been a "small up-tick" in the number of sexual crimes committed by young people.

He pointed out that an 11-year-old had been convicted of rape last year.

"This is quite concerning," he said.

"We're at the early stages, but I've sort of encouraged the department to start thinking ahead in terms of, 'Do we need a special unit for children like this?'"

He added: "It's a very small number but the crimes are quite dark and very troubling."

Secure schools

The committee was told that two secure schools for young offenders are due to be built by the "early part of the next decade".

Dr Lee said they would have an emphasis on learning and sport and, were they to be successful, he would like to see secure schools replace "everything" in the youth custody estate.

He said, that at 69%, re-offending rates among those released from youth custody were too high.

"We can do a lot better than 69%," he said, although there was no "fixed target".

The minister said G4S was still in charge of Oakhill and performing satisfactorily after attempts to sell the secure training centre were "not successful".

However, he added that if the company failed to fulfil its contractual obligations no options were ruled out.

The committee also heard that Medway secure training centre in Kent was doing much better after responsibility for the facility was transferred from G4S to a government-run agency following allegations that children there were being mistreated.

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