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Half of young offenders are themselves victims, finds new study

Half of 11-17 year olds in the hands of Youth Offending Services have themselves been a victim, finds a new report by Middlesex University.

The research, conducted by Middlesex University for the Mayor's Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), is intended to inform the development of support services for young people who have offended but have themselves been a victim of crime, abuse and violence.

Signs or disclosure of past traumatic experiences may only become apparent after an offender has been in the system for a period of time. The report also calls for all Youth Offending Services to review screening processes for emotional and mental health distress, and provide training in recognising signs and vulnerability.

The report's lead author, Middlesex University Associate Professor in Criminology David Porteous, said: "Young people are often reluctant to take up the offer of support with mental health problems, not least because of the stigma that comes with this. Within Youth Offending Services, building trusting relationships is an essential first step.

"At a broader level we need to reflect on the implications of the overlap between offending and victimisation, to understand that an offender and victim can be the  same person but in a different time and place, and that the contexts in which crime tends to be concentrated are as much part of the problem as the particular individuals involved."

Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: "This new report from Middlesex University reveals fresh evidence of the catastrophic and enduring effect that crime can have on the life of a young person. I am determined that do more to break the vicious cycle of violence. This research provides valuable new insights on how to prevent youth offending and reduce re-offending. I am delighted that MOPAC are sharing it with other practitioners around the country by publishing it on our website."

The Mayor's Office has secured £400,000 from the Ministry of Justice Victim's Fund to develop new services for these young people and the report outlines alternative ways in which this money might be put to use. Domestic and street violence, sexual abuse, rape, bereavement, and bullying are all traumas identified in the report which can have negative effects on youngsters.

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