A CONFIDENTIAL Home Office report recommends that children should be targeted as potential criminals from the age of three. It says they can be singled out by their bullying behaviour in nursery school or by a history of criminality in their immediate family.
It proposes parenting classes and, in the worst cases, putting more children who are not “under control” into intensive foster care instead of care homes. Nursery staff would be trained to spot children at risk of growing up to be criminals.
The 250-page report, entitled Crime Reduction Review, was drawn up on the instructions of Tony Blair, who wanted to identify the most effective ways of cutting crime by 2008.
Its leak coincides with an expected announcement tomorrow by Ruth Kelly, the education secretary, of a £430m package to provide out-of-hours clubs at schools for children aged four to 14.
The Home Office strategy unit, which spent five months compiling the report, concluded that “from the simple perspective of reducing crime . . . the arguments for focusing resources on the children most at risk are ‘overwhelming’”.
Children who were not “under control” by the age of three were four times as likely to be convicted of a violent offence, it warned. It adds: “Getting schools to tackle bullying, exclusions and truancy effectively is key to diverting more adolescents from crime”.
The report was conducted against a bleak assessment by the Home Office that, without new measures, the crime rate would rise 8.5% by 2008.
Last July the government used the review’s findings on what worked and what didn’t to underpin a formal
commitment to reduce crime by 15% by 2008.
Measures such as CCTV, increased street lighting and longer custodial sentences were judged in the report to have been expensive failures, with only a few exceptions.
Instead, it maintained that if potential offenders were spotted young enough, “soft” measures — such as improving their reading, language and social skills — could be enough to change their direction.
Kelly’s £430m is intended to provide breakfast clubs and after-hours sports and arts; some children could be at school from 8am to 6pm. The sessions will be run by private sector and voluntary groups, rather than by the schools’ regular staff.
Research in the report found that 85% of inmates in young offenders’ institutions had been bullies at school, while 43% of male prisoners had children with a criminal record. In a verdict likely to anger leftwingers, the report suggests that bullies should be treated as aggressors rather than victims of their social background.
It states that bullies, who can start from a very young age, do not suffer from low self-esteem but act as gang leaders who “recruit” others to commit crime. As they graduate to being juvenile offenders, aged 8 to 15, they act as magnets by drawing in followers one or two years younger than themselves.
Those who by the age of 18 reach this stage, it states, are best dealt with in young offenders’ institutions with “boot camp” regimes.
Continue to page 2…