Nine in 10 young Northern Ireland offenders go on to commit further crimes
Nearly 90% of young offenders released from custody in Northern Ireland went on to commit further crimes, according to newly-released official figures.
The NI Audit Office (NIAO) report shows that repeat offenders are responsible for over 70% of all youth crime and disorder, with over a quarter of young offenders going on to reoffend within a year.
Rates of reoffending have increased since 2010-11, and the most prolific 1% of young offenders account for around 13% of all incidents.
The Youth Justice Agency spent £6.9m in custodial costs in 2015-16, when around 160 young people were detained. The average cost per occupant each year in the Juvenile Justice Centre is £324,000.
Statistics for 2013-14 reveal that the reoffending rate for those released from custody is 89% (31 out of 35), against an overall reoffending rate of 28%.
The use of youth conferencing to deal with "prolific offenders" is also questioned, with over one in two young offenders dealt with through community orders reoffending in 2013-14.
The NIAO's Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly called for a "specific strategy to guide the Executive in terms of youth justice policy and interventions and to help co-ordinate the delivery of youth justice services".
He said: "The number of offences committed by young people has been reducing in recent years.
"However, more than one in four young offenders will go on to reoffend within one year."
Children's Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma accused the Executive of failing "vulnerable" young people who "have not had a fair start in life".
She said: "The NIAO report clearly shows that the current system's interventions and services are not effectively tackling offending and reoffending and is not, therefore, delivering for these children and young people. Ulster Unionist Party justice spokesman Doug Beattie said "the financial benefits of reducing reoffending rates are self-evident".
And the MLA added: "One wonders how many more initiatives which could help improve the administration of justice in Northern Ireland are being delayed due to the current lack of an Executive and a Justice Minister."