Closure of Hartlepool’s youth court not having negative impact on cases – but costs are over budget

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YOUTH offending officials for Hartlepool say the closure of the town’s youth court has not had a negative impact on local cases.

Hartlepool Youth Court closed last April after several decades, with young offenders now dealt with in Middlesbrough.

If it goes on to conviction and that remand time is taken into account, we should be getting something back from the justice system.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chairman of the audit and governance committee

The national court service said the closure was to make best use of resources.

Hartlepool councillors wrote to the Government with their concerns after the move was announced.

Mark Smith, head of youth support services at Hartlepool Borough Council, was asked at a meeting of the audit and governance committee what impact the move has had on Hartlepool.

Mr Smith said: “We haven’t seen an increase in non-attendance of people from Hartlepool which was the worry.

“At times we are having to support young people, their families and victims to get to court but I would much rather see them at court than be in breach of their bail arrangements.

“A number of Hartlepool magistrates have continued to provide their service and make the journey across to Middlesbrough, which I think has helped to soften the blow.”

Fewer first time young offenders entered the youth justice system in the last 12 months, from 50 in 2013-14 to 30 for 2014-2015, as previously reported in the Mail.

But Hartlepool Youth Offending Service, which is part of the council, spent more than budgeted for on youths being remanded in custody.

The local authority footed the bill of £77,000 for 115 remand days in 2013-14, that was an estimated £27,000 over budget.

Mr Smith said: “We do everything we possibly can to avoid unnecessary remands.

“A huge amount of effort goes into securing safe alternative accommodation.”

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chairman of the audit and governance committee, believed the council should be reimbursed if the youth is convicted.

He said: “As a local authority we are footing the bill for remand time.

“If it goes on to conviction and that remand time is taken into account, we should be getting something back from the justice system.”

Councillors praised the youth offending service’s Community Payback scheme, which sees offenders carry out work in communities affected by their crime.

Coun Paul Beck cited tidy up work around Hartfields Retirement Village, and Coun Jim Ainslie said it had been a success on the Headland.

“It is an excellent scheme, well done,” said Coun Ainslie.