More than 40 per cent of young offenders in Lancashire go on to reoffend within a year.
The Government is being urged to avoid criminalising youngsters by diverting them from the justice system where possible, amid calls for the age from when a child can be arrested and charged to be raised.
Ministry of Justice data reveals that 438 offenders aged under 18 in Lancashire either left custody, received a non-custodial conviction or were cautioned in 2017-18.
Of those, 43 per cent went on to commit another offence within 12 months.
That’s up from the 41 per cent rate recorded for the previous year’s cohort.
Between them, the 186 juvenile reoffenders racked up 848 new offences – an average of 4.6 each.
Children in England and Wales are deemed to have criminal responsibility from the age of 10, meaning they can be arrested and brought to court for committing a crime. The Equality and Human Rights Commission last year called for the age to be raised “to stop very young children being exposed to the harmful effects of detention”.
Nationally, 38 per cent of juvenile offenders in 2017-18 committed another crime within a year – compared to 41 per cent from 2016-17 – amid a steep fall in the number of juvenile first-time entrants to the criminal justice system.
However, Dr Tim Bateman, chairman of the National Association for Youth Justice, warned that the falling numbers of juvenile offenders and reoffenders nationally is only partly down to children being less likely to break the law.
He said: “The main explanation is a shift in how minor lawbreaking is treated – an increasingly large proportion of minor misdemeanours result in an informal response that doesn’t get into the figures.
“As a consequence, the smaller number of children who do now come into the system are very different from those who did 10 years ago when there was a tendency for all detected youth crime to get a formal response – however petty.”
The MoJ figures show that nationally, juveniles are also more likely to reoffend than adults.
In Lancashire, 29 per cent of adult offenders reoffended over the same period. Across England and Wales, 29 per cent of adults reoffended.
Dr Bateman continued: “What we know is that drawing children into the justice system actually tends to increase lawbreaking.
“If we want to reduce the level of problematic behaviour by teenagers, then we need to be able to keep them in education and provide them with interesting activities which they can afford when they are not in school.
“We also need to reduce levels of poverty so that fewer children suffer various forms of victimisation – which is associated with later violent behaviour.”
The justice committee of the House of Commons launched an inquiry last year into children and young people in custody. At the time, committee chairman Bob Neill MP said youth reoffending rates “are far too high”, with outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups “far worse” than outcomes for white children.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The number of further crimes committed by young offenders has fallen by 80% in the last decade as a result of our work to support, rather than criminalise, children falling foul of the law.”