Youth offending twice the Scottish average

Figures presented to councillors this week suggest young offending in the Western Isles is almost twice the Scottish average and far in excess of other island groups.
Councillors expressed concern over the situation.Councillors expressed concern over the situation.
Councillors expressed concern over the situation.

At the education committee meeting of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on Tuesday, they gave rise to renewed discussion of behavioural issues particularly in Stornoway involving a small group of young people which have been highlighted over the past year.

The statistics in a report by chief social work officer, Jack Libby, showed that while the proportion of children subject to Compulsory Supervision Orders in the Western Isles reduced slightly to 7.9 per thousand, this compares with 2.7 in Shetland and 3.7 in Orkney.

The report continued: “In terms of youth justice, the number of children referred to SCRA (children’s panels) on offence grounds was 20.1 per 1000 children for the Western Isles, 12.3 per 1000 for Orkney and 3.9 per 1000 for Shetland. The figure for Scotland was 11.3”.

Mr Libby cautioned that referral criteria could differ from one part of Scotland to another.

However, he acknowledged that “release from lockdown” was not a sufficient explanation although “a very small number of young people can affect the numbers disproportionately”.

Cllr George Murray, a former police detective who represents the Stornoway South ward, said: “I doubt if there is a Stornoway councillor who hasn’t had their ears bitten about the behaviour of a small group of boys and girls in the town centre, and they are still getting away with it”.

Reports also emerged recently over a group of youths causing a disturbance within the grounds of the Western Isles Hospital.

Barra councillor, Kenneth Maclean, referred to issues with some youngsters “who have nothing else to do” in Castlebay including verbal abuse directed against “European nationals”. Some were reduced to tears, not wishing to offend the community by complaining, but with nowhere else to go.

It was agreed by the education committee that the chairman should seek discussions with his counterpart at the Community Safety Partnership about what more could be done to address these challenging issues.