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Officers “losing faith” over lenient sentencing for u17s

The West Midlands Police Federation Chair has said the CJS is not getting the balance right when it comes to not criminalising children.

Lenient sentences and keeping under 17s out of custody is not always the right decision, the West Mids Fed Chair has said.

He has also linked sentencing policy to the morale of officers who have worked hard on building cases.

“The message our departments get is that we don’t want to criminalise children,” Rich Cooke told Police Oracle.

“I understand that – but the question is to what extent we do that. Right now I don’t think we are getting the balance right.”

He explained that he is receiving repeated feedback from officers about the big push to keep under 17 year olds out of custody.

It’s hard to get the Youth Justice Service to consider sending any 10-17 year olds to secure detention, he clarified. Mr Cooke links it with the pressure in the wider system.

“The reality is, these problems stem from problems in the criminal justice system. There is a pressure to keep everything out of court.

“But then there’s a spin put on it - as if it’s for the public.

“My view is that you protect the public first and rehabilitate second. At the end of the day, if someone is dangerous you put them in secure accommodation.”

His comments come off the back of a conviction secured a few days ago. A 15 year old was convicted of 18 burglary dwelling offences with a further 16 burglaries TIC.

He stole £300k worth of cars and was given a 12 month Youth Intensive Order. It means he will be back in the community, albeit with restrictions.

Considering the hours put in to attending the scenes, forensics and then putting a case together, Mr Cooke has said officers are “losing faith” and that ideas that might be described as ‘woke’ are “causing us to be less effective”.

“My colleagues and I want this boy to change, to get his life on track and above all stop causing misery to innocent people,” he said. 

“But such lenient sentences do not protect the public.”

It’s not the only time officers have reached out to him on this. He is also receiving repeated reports from officers dealing with youth knife crime or possession of machetes who are told not to bring people into custody – by colleagues or custody staff.

“It’s not because they don’t want them there, but because they know they won’t be kept there,” Mr Cooke explained.

“Someone carrying a knife or machete is a potential killer.

“Once someone is dead you can’t go back.”

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