Introduction

The Serious Violence Duty was introduced through the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 enacting a number of measures across the policing and criminal justice system. This includes duties focused on the prevention and reduction of crime, harm, and violence. 

The Duty places a requirement on specified authorities (the Police, Probation, Youth Justice, Fire and Rescue, Integrated Care Boards and Local Authorities) to work together to ‘prevent and reduce serious violence’ (Home Office, 2022, chapter 1). Education and Prison authorities have a separate duty ‘to collaborate’ with the specified authorities. Police and Crime Commissioners have been given a convening and monitoring role to ensure specified authorities’ compliance with the requirements of the duty. 

Specified authorities are required to produce, by January 2024, a needs assessment outlining the picture of serious violence happening in their local area, including prevalence and drivers, and a strategy informed by this evidence base.  

The Duty outlines the importance of a public health and evidence informed approach to preventing and reducing serious violence, including the following best practice principles:  

  • Adopting a multiagency approach, beyond that of the authorities referenced above.
  • Taking account of the voices and lived experiences of communities.
  • Focusing on early intervention and prevention, and short- and long-term solutions  
  • Incorporating enforcement and criminal justice-based activity as part of a wider public health response.
  • Taking account of existing evidence when developing strategies and commissioning interventions. 

Partners are given flexibility in their approach to framing and responding to serious violence, although focus must be placed on specific areas including ‘public space youth violence’, weapons-related violence and drug related criminal activities. The inclusion of domestic abuse, sexual violence and exploitation is encouraged (Home Office, 2022, chapter 1).  

This is in keeping with the broad direction of national policy around preventing and responding to violence which has increasingly converged around three areas:  

  • Serious violence and weapons-related violence, including knife crime, weapons-related homicides, and violence linked to the supply of drugs.  
  • Violence involving young people, with focus on knife and weapons-related violence, gangs, and exploitation. 
  • Domestic abuse, sexual violence and Violence Against Women and Girls. 

Partnership Response

The Safer Devon Partnership has developed strong foundations in preparation for the Duty through the multiagency Youth Crime and Violence Prevention Partnership, strategic analytical work including the 2021 Devon Profile for Intra and Extra Familial Youth Violence, lived experiences work and investment in early intervention and prevention.  

Following the introduction of the Duty, a Devon Serious Violence Duty Working Group and Needs Assessment Working Group were established to provide ownership and steer to activities to prepare for and respond to the Duty requirements. Representation has included all specified authorities and a wide range of partner organisations and services. 

Conversations with partners in early 2023 identified the following aims for a needs assessment: 

  • Address gaps in our understanding of serious violence taking place in Devon.
  • Develop a strong local evidence base. 
  • Strengthen our insights from lived experiences, with a focus on young people. 
  • Identify findings which can influence system change. 

Concurrent needs assessment activities have taken place around Drugs and Alcohol (in response to the 2022 Drugs Plan), and Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse (IG-BVA) 2023 needs assessment. There is clear interrelationship between serious violence, drug and alcohol misuse and IG-BVA, therefore, the findings of these needs assessments should be read within this context. 

Definition

The Serious Violence Duty guidance allows specified authorities to ‘determine what amounts to serious violence in their local area’ whilst requiring a focus on: 

Public space youth violence including, homicide, violence against a person which may include both knife crime and gun crime, and areas of criminality where serious violence or its threat are inherent, such as county lines drug dealing. (Home Office, 2022, Chapter 1).  

Our approach uses the Safer Devon Partnership’s definition of violence as a basis for our work: ‘the intentional use of physical, sexual or psychological force or power, threatened or actual (this includes coercive and controlling behaviour)’ (Safer Devon Partnership, 2022).

It should be made clear here that partners will define serious violence differently, and that these definitions will include different offences in scope. For example, Probation and Youth Justice Service (YJS) data definitions include ‘common assault’ as a serious violence crime (so long as it meets a gravity weighting) however Police data does not. Partner definitions, with data included in this assessment, are laid out throughout the document.

Approach and focus areas

Following the direction of the Serious Violence Duty, and our assessment of baseline understanding about serious violence, we have focused on two areas of enquiry: 

  • Understanding what violence is taking place in Devon; what types of violence are happening and exploring trends, populations and geographies (section 1-3) 
  • Understanding drivers and needs, including contextual, familial and individual factors and how these interact to contribute to violence (section 4).

Recognising that established partnerships and systems are in place locally to deliver against key themes, including IG-BVA, the serious violence needs assessment and strategy has adopted ‘focus areas:’

  • Violence linked to specific contexts and factors, including domestic abuse, sexual violence and violence against women and girls, weapons related violence, violence linked to drugs and alcohol, violence in the context of exploitation, and violence linked to specific places and spaces. 
  • Peer to peer harms, including physical violence, harmful sexual behaviour and violence taking place online.

Within these focus areas, our attention has been given to violence in young people (under 25s), however we have also considered adults in the context of the harms they can cause towards young people (for example sexual and criminal exploitation) and adults who are more vulnerable to involvement in or victimisation through violence, including adults experiencing multiple disadvantages.

These focus areas have informed the groups and priorities we give focus to in our Strategy.

Populations

The assessment has focused on understanding populations directly affected by serious violence as victims and those carrying out violence, whilst recognising that there can be fluidity between ‘witness,’ ‘victim,’ and ‘offender.’

Throughout the assessment, it is emphasised that violence is often a hidden harm, and we may be unaware of violence within specific populations due to the lack of data that we currently have access to. It is key to remember that certain populations could under report due to a perceived fear of, or lack of trust in, the criminal justice system. This highlights the importance of quantitative data limitations and exploring a variety of methods of enquiry, including qualitative information analysis and that of lived experiences. 

Analysis undertaken on ‘offenders’ within Police crime data should be read in conjunction with the caveat that offenders are only linked to a small minority of crimes (13% of crimes across November 2018 – October 2020 had a recorded offender). Recording rules dictate that crimes will be linked to a victim, as this is required to record a crime. However, to meet the threshold of becoming an ‘offender’ within the Police data, a person must receive a criminal justice outcome.Therefore, caution should be taken around offender data, for example when inferring details on the demographic of certain offenders for certain offences.

We are aware that the use of the word offender can be unhelpful, efforts have been made to only use this word when necessary to provide clarity over the criteria included in specific figures and analysis.

Methodology and data in scope

Throughout the assessment, local data has been used where available, supplemented with regional and national data and academic research where relevant when gaps exist in our local evidence base.  

The following stages of analysis were taken to develop this needs assessment

  • Background analysis to establish what existing local evidence and national research can tell us. 
  • Analysis of key datasets with a focus on trends, themes, and drivers, including Police, Probation, Youth Justice, Prisons and Education data.
  • Evaluating insights from lived experience, with focus on young people and their views and lived experiences. This includes peer-led consultation work led by DYS Space Youth Service to understand young people’s experiences of topics including knife crime, drugs and alcohol, violence and social media and the findings of a peer-led youth conference held in autumn 2023. 
  • Exploration of key themes and cohorts, informed by our evidence base and partner insights. 

Sources used for the needs assessment include: 

Local data sources 

  • Police data (November 2018 – October 2022, prior to the introduction of the new Police data system) 
  • Devon Youth Justice Service (multiple datasets which span 2016 – current) 
  • South West Probation Service (April 2022 – March 2023) 
  • Devon Prisons 
  • Department of Education, Education Data Dashboard (cohort has a key stage 4 (KS4) academic year of 2012/13, 2013/14, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16 or 2017/18, covering six year groups and amounting to approximately 3,165,000 children.
  • Devon County Council Children’s Service Exploitation Hub 

Lived experience work with young people 

  • Peer-led consultation work in youth centres 
  • Work with specific cohorts such as young people affected by familial imprisonment 
  • Drawing on the findings of Devon Youth Voice work, including Stand Up Speak Up (Care Experienced Young People) and Devon Youth Council 

Qualitative insights from partners and practitioners 

  • Insights have been received the following (but not limited to), Youth Justice practitioners, Community Safety Leads, Education practitioners, Youth workers, Police and specialist services such as speech and language therapists.

Findings from local and regional needs assessments 

  • 2021 Devon Profile for Intra and Extra Familial Youth Violence 
  • 2021 Peninsula Serious Violence Needs Assessment 
  • 2022 Devon Drug and Alcohol Needs Assessment 
  • 2023 Devon Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence Needs Assessment 

Academic research and specialist reports, including HM Inspectorate of Probation Academic Insights series

Due to the introduction of a new Police data system in November 2022, Police data from this point onwards has not been included in analysis. This means the assessment does not take account of more recent information and trends in serious violence that may be shown in Police data.   

Caveats apply to all data sources. Efforts have been made to include key caveats within the body of the needs assessment document, however where this is not possible, caveats are detailed within footnotes. 

Language within the assessment 

Throughout this document, the ‘probability yardstick’ has been used to ensure consistency and clarity of reporting. This is a scale of probabilistic language adopted by the Professional Heads of Intelligence Assessment for use across the government intelligence community. The following graphic defines the probability ranges considered when language is used:

This is to ensure proper understanding and maintain consistency across the assessment, where findings are not conclusive.

Contributors 

We would like to highlight the invaluable contributions of the following partners for their time in sharing and developing the data, insights and lived experiences we are including in the assessment. 

  • Youth Justice Service 
  • Probation Service 
  • Prisons Service 
  • Police Performance and Analysis Team 
  • Devon County Council REACH Team 
  • DYS Space, including Lisa, Poppy, Ethan and their peer educators 
  • Devon County Council Children’s Youth Participation Team, including insights shared from Stand Up Speak Up (care experienced young people) and Devon’s Youth Council 
  • Devon Integrated Care Board Neurodiversity and Speech, Language and Communication Team
  • The Interpersonal and gender-based Local Partnership Board

Section one: Nature, scope, prevalence and trends in serious violence and Key headlines

Notes on data

These findings can only cover violence we are aware of. In the context of violence as a hidden and underreported crime we are unlikely to be able to provide a comprehensive picture of its occurrence.  

Recorded violent crime data, partner insights, young people’s experiences and national information have been brought together to create a picture of prevalence and trends across types of violence, age groups and genders.

Gaps and inconsistencies are likely to exist, and sections relying more on qualitative insights cannot easily give a clear sense of prevalence and trends across Devon or across all cohorts.

As noted above, partners will define serious violence differently, and that these definitions will include different offences in scope. Differences are laid out in reference to partner data. 

Police Crime Data Caveats

Serious violence in Police data

The broad definition of serious violence offered by the Home Office cannot be accurately aligned to specific offence groups. As a result, Devon and Cornwall Police have not developed their own formal definition of serious violence, or a prescriptive ‘Offence Group’ list to include in scope of serious violence.

Therefore, data in this needs assessment covers offences within the offence groups that best represent the definition of serious violence, as decided by the Safer Devon Partnership;

The intentional use of physical, sexual or psychological force or power threatened or actual (this includes coercive and controlling behaviour)’ (Safer Devon Partnership, 2022),’ as well as that cover thematic areas contained within the duty itself, i.e. drug related serious violence.

It is important to note that certain offence groups are likely to capture the majority of instances of serious violence, but will also include some that, in context, do not represent serious violence. Conversely, some instances of serious violence may not fall into obvious offence groups.

Offence groups in scope were collectively agreed by the Serious Violence Working Group. These offence groups are as follows; Homicide, Violence with Injury, Robbery, Arson, Trafficking of Drugs, Possession of Weapons, Rape, Other Sexual Offences and Stalking and Harassment.

It is important to bear in mind that figures for each Force and agency will not be directly comparable as it is highly likely they will be measured in different ways.

Caveats

Police data covers the period of November 2018 – October 2022. November 2018 – October 2019 is sometimes referred to as ‘Pre – Covid.’ Where possible, this data is compared against that of November 2021 – October 2022. Each section of analysis details which period it covers, dates within the four years in scope vary throughout.

Data includes periods of Covid lockdown restrictions and will be significantly impacted as a result.

Note: Data is Devon County Council boundary specific. 

Other caveats include:

  • The data represents all offences that have been reported to the Police and subsequently recorded. It does not include crimes which have occurred but have not yet been reported (and in some cases may never be). Therefore, for example, when looking at the ages of offenders and victims, some age groups might appear lower risk due to lower volumes, but it could equally be that people in the age group are under-reporting.  
  • Crimes can be reported in one year but occur in another. All data is for crimes reported and entered onto the system within Nov 18 – Oct 22. Historic crimes are present in the data. 
  • Police crime ‘Flags’ are used inconsistently. In addition, there is no way to know if an increase in a type of flag within the data represents increased occurrence or increased Police use of the flag. 
  • There have been certain pro-active operations to drive engagement with the public to report crimes, or indeed for increased presence of on street officers to witness and deal with crimes, for example ‘Operation Scorpion.’ This operation targeted local drug dealing and users with increased Police visibility as well as school visits, warrants and property searches. It is possible that this contributed to the increase in crimes with a drug flag in the 21/22 period. There may be numerous other local neighbourhood engagement operations that have impacted certain crime types or flags. 
  • Work has been done to remove duplicate crime entries however, when discussing victim and offender data, duplicate persons are highly likely to arise. A note is made when this occurs. 
  • A recorded crime must be linked to a victim, however not all victim information is recorded. For example, 10% of victims do not have a recorded sex.
  • When discussing people who offend, we are looking at a minority of total crimes (13% of crimes have an offender linked to a victim). Therefore, caution needs to be used when making inferences around offender demographics. 
  • It should be noted that only offenders have been charged with the offence. In addition, being charged with an offence does not mean that the offender will necessarily be tried in a court, or if they are that they will be found guilty of the offence. Therefore, when viewing the data in this profile, readers should be aware that the volumes of crimes presented do not represent the number of convictions.   

What types of violence are happening?

Types of violence

It is highly likely that physical violence, such as assault, is the most prevalent crime type within serious violence occurring in Devon. In Police data, Violence with Injury comprises the majority of offences within the scope of serious violence offences[1] (42%), followed by Stalking and Harassment (34%), Other Sexual Offences (9%) and Rape (5%). This highlights the prevalence of sexually violent crime within serious violence offences. Possession of weapons and trafficking of drugs comprise a lower proportion of offences, at 3.33% and 3.35% respectively.

Chart shows count of all ‘Serious Violence Offences’ across November 2018 – October 2022.

It should be noted that underreporting means these figures may not fully represent the types of violence taking place in Devon.[2]

Within Police data ‘domestic abuse’ is not itself, an offence. In crime data, offences suspected to be domestic abuse related are ‘flagged.’ Domestic abuse has been consistently associated with serious violence across the period of November 2018 – October 2022. Year on year, around a third of all serious violence crimes in scope were tagged with a Domestic Abuse Flag.

Key serious violence headlines

Caveats of several key data sets

The following findings are based on 3 key sets of quantitative data. Police data, of which the above caveats apply, as well as Youth Justice Service and Probation data.

YJS Data

  • This data covers children who have entered into the YJS over two years, 1/4/21-31/3/23, who have committed an offence.
  • Data includes Serious Violence Offences, Sexual Offences and Any Other Offences. Serious violence as defined by the YJS as ‘any drug, robbery or violence against the person offence that has a gravity score of five or more’.
  • There are duplicate individuals within the data set, therefore figures are presented in relation to offences.
  • Reference to needs and drivers within the data should be read bearing in mind that they are only included where they are recorded by the YJS system and where data quality is sufficient.
  • The needs are recorded only if they have been identified prior to the offence, those identified after the offence took place are not present within the data.
  • Not all potential needs and drivers relating to a young person will be captured in this data. There may be some inconsistency in the way that characteristics are applied within the data. For example, each assessor may record a characteristic differently.
  • The cohorts, particularly for serious violence and sexual violence, are small and therefore percentage and proportion data should be read with this in mind. For example, there were 38 serious violence offences in 21/22 and 52 in 22/23.

Probation data

  • Data relates to people on Probation for Serious Violence offences between 1/4/22-31/3/23. (Data is for commencement on Probation, not offence date).
  • Data relates to Devon, excluding Torbay and Plymouth.
  • There may be duplicate individuals within the data, therefore figures are presented in relation to offences.
  • Offence categories of Sexual (against child), Sexual (not against child) and Violence as recorded in National Delius records have been used to determine serious violent crime. Offences are dealt with on a case-by-case basis to ascertain severity.
  • Certain offences will automatically be counted as serious violence, such as murder, GBH, however some lower-level offences are considered on a case-by-case basis where the facts deem them to be seriously violent.
  • Offences in scope will differ to that in other data sets throughout this needs assessment.
  • In relation to needs, eight are termed criminogenic needs and calculated by the Offender Assessment System (OASys) actuarial system. These are accommodation, education, relationships, lifestyles, drugs, alcohol, thinking/behaviour and attitudes. Finance and Emotional Wellbeing are additional needs, but these are based on the Practitioner’s opinion.
  • These are not formal diagnoses and there will be variation in the way these are assessed. For example, each assessor may record a characteristic differently.

Serious violence is increasing

There has been an overall increase in the level of total serious violence crimes, in Police data, from November 18 to October 22 by around 12%. During the same period there was a decrease in non-serious violence crimes, by 7%.[3]

Serious Violence Offence Groups – in scope:

  • Homicide
  • Violence with Injury
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Trafficking of Drugs
  • Possession of Weapons
  • Rape
  • Other Sexual Offences
  • Stalking and Harassment

Non-Serious Violence Offence Groups – not in scope:

  • Possession of Drugs
  • Theft from the Person
  • Other Offences
  • Vehicle Offences
  • Bicycle Theft
  • Burglary Dwelling
  • Criminal Damage
  • Burglary Non Dwelling
  • Public Order Offences
  • All Other Theft Offences
  • Shoplifting
  • Violence without Injury
  • Death or Serious Injury Caused by Unlawful Driving

Please note – there will be lower levels of serious violence within certain offence groups that are included in scope, for example ’Harassment without Violence,’ within Stalking and Harassment.

The largest increases within offence groups are within Rape, up by 27%, Other Sexual Offences, up by 25% and Possession of Weapons, up by 49%.[4]

Over the same period, Violence with Injury offence descriptions that can be considered to be the ‘most serious,’ for example Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH), have increased by 33%. These offences are laid out in the graphic below but relate to the most concerning crimes in relation to risk of, or actual, level of injury, in Police data.

The following offences make up the ‘most serious’ Violence with Injury offences:

  • GBH with and without intent
  • Section 18 Wounding with Intent
  • Attempt to cause GBH
  • Attempt Murder, Child Destruction
  • Administer poison with intent to GBH
  • Racially or religiously aggravated GBH
  • Throw Corrosive fluid to do GBH
  • Cause explosion with intent to GBH
  • Owner/person in charge of a dangerous dog causing GBH
  • Section 18 wounding with intent to resist arrest
  • Intentional Strangulation
  • Intentional suffocation

Therefore, it is possible that violent crimes committed in Devon may be becoming more severe in nature. 

Evidence shows that violence is increasing within certain contexts. For example, mental health related serious violence (identified by a flag applied to a crime where victim and/or perpetrator appears to have a mental health related concern) has increased by 66% since 2019/20.[5]

In addition, drug and alcohol related serious violence is also increasing. From 2018/19 to 2021/22 alcohol related serious violence has increased by 33%.  Furthermore, drug related serious violence, where a person involved (as either victim or perpetrator) is perceived to be under influence of drugs has increased by 72% in the same time frame. 

These flags are applied when a person involved in the event is perceived to be under the influence of drink or drugs. It is possible that substance misuse is driving serious violence in Devon.

It should be noted here that flags in Police data are used inconsistently and may have been impacted by certain operations that have driven this increase in recording. However, on discussion with Police officers, anecdotally they report to have seen a rise in mental health and drug related incidents.

Serious violence is gendered

There are prevalent demographics in Police data within the cohorts of people who become victims and people who offend. Please note it is highly likely that there is significant number of offenders, who have also been victimised, within the four years’ worth of data observed.

When observing Police data from November 2018 – October 2022, of those victims with a recorded sex,[6] 60% of serious violence victims are female.

Pie chart shows the proportion of male and female Victims across November 2018 – October 2022. The chart contains duplicate Victims due to repeat victimisation, and Victims with unknown sex have been removed.

Victims of serious violence are most likely to be within the younger cohort.

Bar chart shows Victim Age Range and Victim sex. Victims of ‘Unknown’ sex have been removed for this visual.

In total, of crimes with a person linked as committing the offence, 82% of people who offend are male.[7]

Pie chart shoes proportion of male and female Offenders. 35 crimes are linked to an offender with ‘unknown sex,’ for the purposes of this visual these offenders have been removed.

Females
Female victims are more likely to be repeat victims of serious violence, than males.[8]  Of around 18,600 unique female victims in the data set (November 2018 – October 2022) over 4,900 were repeat victims (26%). Of around 14,600 unique male victims, 2,600 were repeat victims (18%). Females are therefore disproportionately impacted by serious violence, overall.

Females are more likely to be a victim of crimes perpetrated by men; 81% of crimes with a female victim, linked to an offender, were linked to a male as the person recorded of committing the offence. 

Additionally, females are overrepresented within certain offences, such as Rape, Other Sexual Offences and Stalking and Harassment, with 89%, 79% and 65% of victims respectively, being women. Young females are particularly vulnerable to becoming a victim of a sexual offence, with the majority of people who commit sexual offences being males between the age of 26-45.

Bar chart shows age of Other Sexual Offences Victims. Victims of ‘Unknown’ sex have been removed for these visuals.

 

Bar chart shows age of Rape Victims. Victims of ‘Unknown’ sex have been removed for these visuals.

It should be noted that over 45% of serious violence crimes with a female victim are also related to domestic abuse. 

The gendered nature of sexual violence is more fully developed within the Inter Gender- Based Violence Needs Assessment,[9] however is explored in the following sections.

Evidence indicates females who carry out serious violence are likely to have a higher prevalence of vulnerabilities.[10]Females are however infrequently recorded as people who offend in Police data. Between the years November 2018 – October 2022, less than 20% of all persons identified as committing an offence were female. The most common age range of females who offended in Police data is 26-35. Those females identified who were under 18 and committed an offence, have increased over the three years, however figures are too small to identify conclusive trends. 

Males
Males make up around 40% of identified victims in the data. Most of these victims are within younger cohorts; the most frequently recorded is 26-35, then under 18 and followed by 18-25. 

There are certain areas where men are more commonly victims. For example, when looking at those crimes considered to be the ‘most serious’ for example Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH),[11]  victims and those who offend are most likely to be adult males between the ages of 26-55. Males are also more likely to be a victim and an offender of less serious Violence with Injury offences, Robbery, Arson, and Possession of weapons.

However, it is highly likely that males commit more serious violence offences than females. Males of all ages make up the majority of people who committed a serious violence offence in all data sets evaluated for this needs assessment. In Police data, males make up over 80% of all people who had committed ‘most serious’ violence offences between November 2018 and October 2022. The most frequently listed males who had committed an offence were between the age of 26-35, then 36-45 and then 18-25. 

Data regarding those who have offended is also available within Youth Justice Service (YJS) and Probation data. In YJS data from 1/4/21-31/3/23, nearly 80% of young people brought to their attention were male.

In Probation data from 1/4/22-31/3/23, 91% of offences committed by people brought to the attention of Probation service for serious violence offences were male. It should also be noted that all females on Probation for serious violence in the same period were found guilty of lower-level serious violence offences, for example ‘common and other types of assault’ and ‘malicious wounding and other like offences (misdemeanours).’ 89% of the serious violence offences committed by males were related to these lower-level serious violence offences, however 11% (24 offences in total) were related to more severe violence. These offences include kidnap, manslaughter and aggravated burglary.[12]

A note on ethnicity of those involved in Serious Violence

It is important that data read in the following section is understood in the context that institutional and structural racism exists in our community.[13] It is likely that disproportionality exists as a result of this, as well as a combination of other complex and intersectional factors.

Across the system it has been noted that ethnically diverse people are over-represented as a group involved in serious violence. This is reflected in national data but is also identified within key data sets such as crime, YJS, and Probation.

For the purposes of analysis within this section, we have defined a person who is ethnically diverse as Arab, Asian or Asian British, Black or Black British or a person of mixed heritage. Our definition excludes anyone who is White, not just White British. It should be made clear that all individual experiences of racism are unique. In addition, it should be noted that white people can also experience racism or discrimination based on their ethnic identity or nationality, particularly Roma, Gypsy, Traveller, and Showmen community and White migrant workers from the European continent. However, due to the way that data is categorised, these people are not included in the figures below.

In Devon, 3.75% of the population are ethnically diverse.[14] However, in Police data, when observing those linked to a crime as someone who has committed a serious violence offence, this figure is nearly at 4.5%. When assessing the under 26 age group, ethnically diverse people make up just under 6% of the total. It should be noted that ethnicity data within Police data is of poor quality. Work is being done with Devon and Cornwall Police to improve this and to understand why disproportionality exists.

Ethnicity is not provided in a large percentage of cases; conclusions are therefore reported with low confidence. Of all people linked to committing an offence amongst all age groups, ethnicity was unknown for 21.4% of unique people.There are several ways within Police data to identify a person’s ethnicity, we have used ‘self-identified ethnicity’ data to get the most accurate account of a person’s perceived ethnicity.

Contrastingly, when observing victim data, 3% of victims of serious violence offences are ethnically diverse. There is a realistic possibility that this represents a culture of non-reporting within ethnically diverse communities, likely as a result of bias and discrimination they encounter, which can act as a boundary to the criminal justice process and receiving a positive outcome.[15] Due to under reporting, it is likely that the actual figure of ethnically diverse victims is higher than this.

The representation of ethnically diverse individuals within serious violence is a data gap. Currently, we do not understand the true extent of disproportionality and we do not understand why this is taking place. National research indicates that this is likely, in part due to institutional and structural racism.[16] Disproportionality in ethnicity may also be driven by societal factors and other demographic differences such as age, social class and urban living. Further work is required on this.

When local lived experience work is evaluated during this assessment, it is unclear on the demographic of those voices. It is important that going forward work is done to ensure a diverse and fully representative account of people within our community.

It is also important to be aware of intersectionality throughout this needs assessment, and have an awareness that certain combined characteristics will heighten vulnerability to involvement in and impact of serious violence. For example, ethnically diverse people are also overrepresented in the care system, which we go on to develop as a factor that could combine with others to increase likelihood of being involved in serious violence.[17]

Further work is required to improve data quality across the system and develop an understanding of why overrepresentation in of certain ethnicities within serious violence is taking place.

Youth violence is an increasing concern

It is likely that youth violence is increasing. Provisional data from the Devon Youth Justice Service (YJS) indicates serious youth violence is increasing.According to the YJS, serious violence includes ‘any drug, robbery, or violence against the person offence that has a gravity score of five or more.’

It is understood that there may be a strong overlap between victims and those committing violence, within the youth cohort, likely as a result of exploitation of children by adults.[18]

Peer to peer violence

There has been a 27% increase in violence where a person committing an offence and a victim is under 18, from 18/19 to 21/22. These will be termed ‘peer to peer’ violence. Most of these offences were lower level ABH offences.

This shows that it is likely that children are becoming more violent amongst each other.

Bar chart shows Peer on Peer crimes by Offence Type. Count of crimes, where Victim and person committing crime is under 18, by Top 5 Offence Groups and Year. Is a clear increase in the number of these crimes in 20/21 and 21/22. Note number of offences per year are relatively low.


Prevalence of knife crime in the youth cohort is unknown, but is a concern of young people

In lieu of current Police data, knife crime cannot be confirmed to be a rising crime trend.

Nationally, knife crime is a key element of youth violence,[19] with prevalence in urban areas amongst those under 18. Within the national picture, knife crime is often related to youth gang violence.

Whilst the nature and scope of knife crime in Devon is likely different to that of more populated urban areas, anecdotal and qualitative evidence in Devon suggests knife crime is something that young people perceive to be increasing.

DYS Space carried out peer-led consultation work with around 100 young people aged 11-19 in 2023 about their experiences and thoughts on knife crime.[20] In the consultation, 52% of young people reported to know someone who carries a knife. (Many these young people were from Exmouth and Tiverton. It may be that some participants may know the same young people who carry knives. Other caveats, such as the data collection method unable to distinguish duplicate submissions are also present).

This is an area of conflicting data and explored thoroughly in the needs assessment.

Drug related crime is increasing in all cohorts

Serious violence where those people involved are understood to be under the influence or having used drugs, has increased by 72% since November 2018 – October 2019 to November 2021 – October 2022.[21]

This figure is based on drug flagged crime, which is limited in that its use is inconsistent. However, on conversation with Police officers, as well as insight from the Police Drug Markets Profile,[22] it is highly likely that drug related violence is increasing.

The Youth Justice Service’s Serious Violence Tool Kit for Q4 2022/23, which covered data from Q1 2016/17, showed a rise in drug related incidents in the last two quarters of the year.

It is likely that drug related incidents are increasing in Devon amongst the adult and youth cohort.

Serious violence is more likely to occur in urban areas in Devon

Exeter City Centre and Barnstaple Central have the highest rate of serious violence crimes per head of 1000 population, across four years from November 2018 to October 2022.[23]

Tiverton Town Centre, the neighbourhoods surrounding Exeter, i.e. St Davids and Wonford, as well as Ilfracombe East and Newton Abbot are also areas where serious violence crime is prevalent. ​

It should be noted here that overall, the Devon and Cornwall peninsula is currently one of the safest parts of the country to live in, according to the latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) report. The report showed that crime in the force area increased by 0.4% compared to the national average of 2.6% for the year ending June 2023.[24] Neighbourhoods in Devon are generally safe places to work, live and visit.

Pie chart shows Crime rate per 1000 population, in locations in Devon. Note population figure is correct as of 2019, serious violence crime rate at 2021 based on this figure.

From anecdotal partner insight it is likely that certain places and spaces are linked to crime, Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB), and potential Child Criminal and Sexual Exploitation (CCE and CSE), which could all result in the occurrence of serious violence.

There is a high prevalence of needs within the youth and adult cohort

It is highly likely that there is a considerable volume of needs and vulnerabilities of those who commit violence in Devon.[25] Serious violence is likely to occur as a result of complex intersecting and potentially compounding needs of those people involved.

It is likely that both victims of, and those who commit serious violence, are more vulnerable to becoming involved due to external and internal drivers.

In this Needs Assessment, there is limited assessment on the needs and vulnerabilities of victims. This is something that we hope to explore in future iterations.

Needs and drivers for this assessment will be discussed in the context of those who commit serious violence offences.

Key cohorts have been identified by this needs assessment as experiencing circumstances or needs that it is likely make them more vulnerable to becoming involved in serious violence:

  • Those who have experienced trauma and adverse childhood experiences
  • Those who are care experienced
  • Young people who are neurodiverse or have Special Educational Needs
  • Young people and adults with mental health needs

These needs are often compounded by one another, or by other contextual factors such as poverty and deprivation. Needs and drivers infrequently exist in isolation, and it is often the case that those involved in violence have a combination of compounding needs.

The following diagram encourages us to view needs and drivers as interlinking across the four spheres of the ‘individual’, ‘relationships’, the ‘community’, and ‘society’, rather than in isolation of one another.  

Figure 1: Ecological model of needs and drivers relating to serious violence.

Graphic displays the ecological model of needs and drivers relating to serious violence.

 

Section two: Serious violence involving adults

Serious violence perpetrated by adults

There is a clear focus in the Serious Violence Duty on serious violence in relation to young people and in specific ‘public space youth violence.’[26] However, the picture of violence in Devon would not be fully developed without analysis around serious violence that occurs amongst those over 18 and indeed by those over 18, toward child victims.

Serious violence within this adult cohort is framed with a youth violence lens, where appropriate.

Adults are responsible for the majority of serious violence offences, within Police data. Those under 18 account for around 15% of total people recorded as committing an offence.

Victims are predominantly adults, however there is a higher concentration of younger victims than there are younger people recorded as having committed an offence.

The second most common age of victim is under 18. This suggests that a high level of violence is committed by adults, toward young people.


Donut chart shows Offender age on left and Victim age on right. Note, duplicate people will be present in the data.

‘Most serious’ Violence with Injury

These offences are comprised of the following;

  • GBH with and without intent
  • Section 18 Wounding with Intent
  • Attempt to cause GBH
  • Attempt Murder, Child Destruction
  • Administer poison with intent to GBH
  • Racially or religiously aggravated GBH
  • Throw Corrosive fluid to do GBH
  • Cause explosion with intent to GBH
  • Owner/person in charge of a dangerous dog causing GBH
  • Section 18 wounding with intent to resist arrest
  • Intentional Strangulation
  • Intentional suffocation

The most serious Violence with Injury offences are increasing but limited in number (under 1650 offences across the four years). These offences constitute less than 10% of all Violence with Injury offences across November 2018 – October 2022.[27]

When assessing the cohort of people who are responsible for committing the ‘most serious’ Violence with Injury offences, the highest proportion are between the ages of 36-45.

This kind of violence is also gendered. Over 80% of people who commit these kinds of offences are males and 65% of victims are males. There is a small proportion of victims under the age of 18, linked to this kind of ‘most serious’ Violence with Injury crimes.

Data from Probation and YJS supports the idea that whilst there is a small minority of offences that relate to extremely severe serious violence the majority of serious violence offences are less severe in nature. For example, of serious violence offences committed by men and women entering Probation between 1/4/22-31/3/23, 90% related to lower levels of serious violence; common assault and misdemeanour malicious wounding.[28]

Homicide

When observing Homicide data, which is another specific focus of the Duty, all persons who committed an offence identified in Police data over the period of November 2018 to October 2022 were adults. Further analysis cannot be given on exact number of victims and offenders due to the low figures involved.

Homicides committed by adults toward child victims is not a theme seen within the data, or reported by our partners, it is therefore unlikely to be a concern in Devon.

Looking at Homicide more broadly, Devon and Cornwall Police recently published a force wide Homicide Review.[29]The review looks at all homicides committed in the year up to July 2023 and identifies a number of key themes:

  • Excluding Keyham, the number of homicides is consistent with the previous year
  • There is a greater proportion of domestic abuse related homicides, in Devon and Cornwall, compared to the national average.There is also a higher number of older victims as well as female victims, when comparing to the national average.
  • Suspect themes include: often being known to the Police for previous violence; often linked to drug abuse and/or drugs supply; often had a history of possessing weapons; often had a history of vulnerability including adverse childhood experiences, mental health, homelessness and/or exploitation.

From this analysis, there seems to be certain concerns around the context of homicide in Devon, however it does not seem to be changing in prevalence.

When assessing other data sets, there were no children brought to the attention of the YJS for Homicide offences, however there were two children brought to YJS attention for attempted murder. There were five manslaughter offences within Probation data from 1/4/22-31/3/23. These more severe violent offences constitute a very small proportion of total offences.

Domestic abuse

Domestic violence and abuse and sexual violence are covered in detail in the 2023 Devon Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse Needs Assessment. The needs assessment explores all violence and abuse relating to these areas, with focus on thematic areas as collectively agreed by local partners. In this document we will outline headlines on domestic violence and abuse and sexual violence which are of most relevance to understanding the occurrence of serious violence in Devon.

  • Domestic abuse has been consistently associated with serious violence across the four years. Around 1/3 of all serious violence crimes in scope for this needs assessment were tagged with a domestic abuse flag
  • Domestic abuse flagged crimes have increased by 13%, in line with the 12% increase in serious violence crimes over the time period.

The age and sex of both victim and person perpetrating domestic abuse have remained largely the same across the three years. Just under 75% of victims were female, with around 23% being male. The most common age was between 26-35.

The majority of these crimes are not linked to an ‘offender,’ therefore findings are presented with limited confidence. Where a person who committed the offence is linked, the most common age of domestic abuse perpetrator across the three years was 26-45. In 21/22 84% of people who committed an offence were male, however in 18/19 this was higher at 87%, suggesting that we could be observing an increase in female perpetrated domestic abuse. Further analysis on the kinds of female relationships this violence is happening in, has not been conclusive, however intimate female partner violence does not appear as a theme in the data.

Adults perpetrate a high level of domestic abuse toward other adults. In Police data across November 2018 to October 2022, there were over 2000 domestic abuse flagged crimes, that identified both a victim and a person responsible for committing the offence. Around 95% of these crimes contained a victim and offender over the ages of 18.

It should be noted that the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 stipulated that children who are exposed to domestic abuse in the home should be treated as victims in their own right. However, these children will not be recorded as such in Police data as they are only recorded as victims when they are the direct target of abuse.

The prevalence of parental domestic abuse perpetrated toward their own children is unclear in Devon. Further work may be done on the Police data to ascertain recorded figures, however this would only tell part of the story.

Child Protection notices may be able to give some indication of this kind of violence in Devon, however figures do not necessarily relate to a parent or carer as the person who perpetrated domestic abuse, although in many cases it is. Between September 2020 and October 2021, Devon and Cornwall Police made 2502 Child Protection referrals related to domestic abuse, in relation to children within Devon. In the following year, September 2021 and October 2022, this increased to 2725; this is an increase of 9%. It should be noted that figures may be impacted by lockdown restrictions and a decrease in reporting. 

Research suggests that exposure as a victim or witness of domestic abuse can be a driver for children becoming violent themselves later in life.[30] This is explored in detail in Section four. However, it should be noted that there is conflictual evidence around the causality of impact.

Sexual violence

We have already ascertained that victims of sexual offences such as Rape are predominantly young females in Police data. However, it should be noted that the majority of those who commit   Rape are adult males between the age of 26-45.


Donut chart displays Rape Offender age. Note some age ranges removed due to low figures of offenders within group.

Vulnerable adults

Evidence suggests that serious violence often takes place within a cohort of vulnerable adults. Adults in this cohort could be a victim or a perpetrator, and like elsewhere in this needs assessment, having a non-binary view of these two ‘statuses’ is helpful.

There is limited data available to understand the nature and prevalence of adults at risk of exploitation and becoming involved in serious violence, in Devon.

When looking at those who perpetrate serious violence, data from South West Probation Service, 1/4/2022 – 31/3/2023, indicates a level of vulnerability of those who have entered Probation in the time frame.

Adults on Probation do have a prominent level of need assessed by Probations Offenders Assessment System (OASys), which was introduced to better understand and manage the needs of those who offend. This assessment is not a formal diagnosis, but an indication based on strict assessment criteria of certain needs or potential areas of concern. In total, eight needs are routinely assessed with two needs, Financial and Emotional Wellbeing, assessed on Practitioner’s opinion.[31]

Due to the way that data is collected, needs are based on offence, not individual. There may be duplicate people in the data as a result of an individual committing more than one offence. Of the people who entered the Probation system between 1/4/22-31/3/23 for serious violence offences, those offences committed by females were attached on average to 5.9 needs per offence. For offences committed by men on Probation, each one had on average 5.4 needs attached to it. Interestingly for men on Probation who committed sexual offences, needs per offence were lower at 4.4. It should be noted that because data is not available at record level, we cannot see if there is a proportion of adults who are not vulnerable and have no, or very few needs. To suggest that all individuals within the cohort have multiple needs and vulnerabilities may be misleading.

People who are homeless and street attached have been identified as being at potential risk of exploitation. Nearly 20% of the serious violence cohort entering Probation in the year 1/4/22-31/3/23, do not have a recorded address, indicating that a complex and chaotic lifestyle may be a factor contributing to adult violence.

Females have a heightened risk of being sexually exploited as a result of homelessness which could contribute to shame and trauma responses which are also factors contributing to involvement in serious violence. This demonstrates the complexity and compounding nature of these needs.

As noted in the drug related violence section, there are indications that vulnerable drug users may become open to exploitation and coercion, including cuckooing, however, there are limited insights around this. 

National and regional data indicates that women with complex lives and multiple disadvantages are vulnerable to violence, sexual exploitation, and county lines.[32] The idea that women have a greater level of need is supported by Probation data analysed in this assessment.

Sexual exploitation in adults has been explored in the 2023 Devon Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse Needs Assessment. Due to the limited data on ‘sexual exploitation’ as a standalone offence or vulnerability, focus was given to elements that may be indicators of exploitation. 

NRM (National Referral Mechanism) referrals data for England relating to the year ending 2022 shows that females made up a high proportion of exploitation which included a sexual purpose.[33] A high prevalence of victims were foreign nationals (Home Office, 2023). Whilst sexual abuse is a gendered offence, men are less likely to disclose, particularly in the context of sexual exploitation. The Needs Assessment notes evidence from work within migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking communities locally suggest the prevalence of men sexually exploited could be higher.

Work carried out with female sex workers has highlighted the following themes:

  • In 2018 an Exeter-based study took place gathering information on the experience of 41 women who reported sex working.
    • 78% reported that they had experienced actual, or threats of, physical and sexual violence.
    • Over 50% reported that they had experienced physical and sexual violence from clients including rape, kidnap, and physical violence. 
  • A 2023 report by the Eddystone Trust into Devon and Torbay women who had sex worked found that high levels of domestic abuse, sexual violence and exploitation were reported. They also found that the women they consulted often did not prioritise sexual health and had often experienced multiple disadvantages. 

The Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse Needs Assessment has identified a gap in the understanding of sexual exploitation in broader populations including migrant populations, young women and girls, and victims and survivors.[34]

It is also important to understand the wider risks around exploitation that these populations may face, including any risks around criminal and economic exploitation.

Violence in prisons

Nationally, there has been an annual increase in recorded assaults in prisons. In the year to March 2023 more than a quarter of deaths in prisons were self-inflicted and rates of self-harm remain close to record levels. This Prison Reform Trust reported that 37% of all assaults in 2022 were initiated by young adults, indicating specific risks around safety and violence for this age group.[35]

There are three prisons in Devon, Exeter, Channings Wood and Dartmoor. These prisons house predominantly adult males.

Insights from prison partners and national reports indicate that factors influencing serious violence in prisons include the availability of drugs, weapons, phones, prisoners getting into debt and cost of living and prison population pressures.[36]

Data on serious assaults, self-harm and deaths taking place in Devon’s prisons provides an insight into serious violence and the wider safety of prisons. Data has been sourced from the HMPP Hub on incidents of ‘serious assaults’.[37]

There are indications of high levels of violence and self-inflicted harm in prisons. High self-harm rates have been observed nationally, in part this may be due to a culture of underreporting assaults and instead reporting as self-inflicted injury.

Exeter prison has a high rate of serious assault incidents, serious assaults on staff, and deaths, compared to other local prisons. Serious prisoner on prisoner assaults have remained largely stable but have increased in Channings Wood.

More work could be done to understand the prevalence and causes of serious violence in prisons.

Adults exploiting inherent vulnerabilities of young people, by drawing them into seriously violent crime.

It is likely that adults are both committing seriously violent acts toward younger people, as well as introducing the youth cohort into criminal activity that will leave them at risk of becoming involved in serious violence.

From evidence available from local and national sources assessed thus far, there is an indication that drug related exploitation, where an adult offender is involved, is likely a growing issue within the picture of serious violence.

Drug related violence

Nationally, drugs have been identified as increasingly associated with violence and exploitation. Violence can be linked to the use of drugs and drug supply and trafficking.

It is important to fully develop this area as a key type of serious violence within Devon.

A variety of drug business models operate across Devon, with county lines most prevalent, especially in Exeter, East and Mid Devon, and dangerous drug networks and lone dealers also present, including in rural areas. 

Available evidence indicates that drug violence is increasing; serious violence offences with a drug flag in Devon have increased by 72% compared to pre-covid 2018/19 figures. This has also been the case with non-serious violence offences.

The following analysis is based on four years’ worth of data, November 2018 to October 2022. Serious violence offences in Devon with a drug flag show us that:

  • Crimes with a drug flag are more prevalent in urban areas with a higher rate of general crime such as Exeter City Centre, Barnstaple Central Town and Newton Abbot Town.
  • The most common demographic of a person committing an offence related to drugs was a male between 26-35.
  • Only 11% of people who had committed an offence were female.
  • Females between the age of 26-35 were the most common victim of drug related violence.
  • 63% of all victims with a recorded sex were female, 37% were male (this includes repeat victimisation).
  • 69% of the drug related crimes that contained a female victim were also domestic abuse related (figures are for drug related crime only, not alcohol). Only 27% of the drug related crimes that contained a male victim were also domestic abuse related.


Bar chart shows Drug related Crimes, with a DA flag by Year and Victim Sex.

We can infer from this that the nature of drug related crimes, for female victims, frequently have an element of domestic abuse.

Qualitative insights from Police officers included in the Drug Markets Profile (2023) [38] suggest an increase in the use of violence and /or weapons across the Force, in particular an increase in ‘taxings’ and threats due to drug debts. Drug ‘taxings’ usually occur when drug users and/or dealers steal drugs or money from other users or dealers in an extremely violent way.

This suggests violence also occurs towards vulnerable drug users. It is therefore likely that vulnerable adults are also being subjected to serious violence as a result of the drug trade.

The Police Drug Markets Profile, which uses data from across the peninsular rather than Devon specifically, provides further insights about vulnerable drug users who may be at most risk of violence and people most likely to perpetrate violence and exploitation. This data relates to the peninsula, so may not be fully applicable to Devon.

  • Users and dealers known to the Police are most likely to be male, white and in their 30s.
  • 30% of dealers were identified as potential users, highlighting fluidity in these roles
  • Drug possession and trafficking offences are more likely to occur in more deprived postcodes, suggesting these areas are more at risk of drug related harm and violence.
  • In relation to Class A drugs, especially those which give rise to highly dependent users, such as heroin and crack cocaine, users are often open to exploitation and violence. It has been found that users often house dealers for free, receive discounted drugs or buy drugs from dealers ‘on tick’ (paying later) – this points to an inherent risk of exploitation, including ‘cuckooing’, coercion and violence. This is unlikely to be representative of the broader use of recreational drugs.
  • Less detail was provided about young people, however the Profile suggests county lines may present a greater risk than other business models. Possession data also suggested an escalation in risk as the age of the child increases. 

Data from the Devon Children’s Services Reach Team shows that Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) is the most common identified form of exploitation for children and young people, along with Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). CCE is generally considered to relate to drugs, however business models of exploitation, for example county lines or local dealer, can vary and be unclear. This can have implications for the exploitation, harm and violence children and young people experience. Often CCE and CSE can co-occur.

From current data, it is hard to determine prevalence of exploitation that adults’ subject children to, through the drug trade.

Child sexual abuse and exploitation

It is clear from evidence in this needs assessment as well as information from the Interpersonal, Gender-Based Violence and Abuse Needs Assessment that CSE is occurring in Devon.[39]

When assessing Police data from November 2018 – October 2019, a relatively small number of serious violence crimes had a CSE flag, 66, in November 2021 – October 2022, 186 crimes contained a CSE flag. Despite relatively small numbers, this is a notable increase. Police data has no record of the person who committed the offence for the vast majority of these crimes so undertaking further analysis on the demographic of those who commit this violence cannot take place.[40]

CSE flags, like all flags within Police data, are likely to be used inconsistently. In addition to under reporting, it is likely that the prevalence of CSE is higher that these figures indicate, in Devon.


Bar chart shows count of CSE flagged crimes, per year.

Regarding sexual abuse of children, we have already established that young females are at greater risk of experiencing sexual violence and that this is most commonly perpetrated by adult males.

Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery can take place in many forms including but not limited to criminal, sexual, domestic, and labour exploitation. The use of young children, by adults in the drug trade can amount to modern day slavery in the form of criminal exploitation, so long as the legal requirements are fulfilled.[41]

In November 2023 there were nearly 5000 ‘live’ and ongoing Modern Slavery Police investigations nationally. However, this figure is likely to be much higher due to data collection methods and the underreported nature of modern slavery crimes.[42] Nearly 60% of the total investigations in November related to criminal exploitation, as the primary form of exploitation.

National data shows that in recent years a high proportion of National Referral Mechanism (NRM) referrals for potential child victims of modern slavery have related to criminal exploitation. The most recent data covering the year ending 2022 demonstrates that criminal exploitation remains the most common type within referrals for children aged 17 and under (Crest, 2020a; Home Office, 2023). 

Local Police data collected around modern slavery is not of high enough data quality to include in this assessment.

There is degree of violence inherent within Modern Slavery as it often requires a power imbalance, control, coercion, or deceit.

Modern Slavery is commonly an offence perpetrated by sophisticated Organised Crime Gangs (OCG’s), who exploit vulnerable people of all ages. The prevalence and nature of OCG’s in Devon is unclear at this time and would benefit from further research.  

Gaps and further questions

  • Get a better understanding of exploitation of vulnerable adults, particularly women, who are possibly at risk of high harm.
  • Expand our knowledge of the role of Organised Crime Groups in drug related violence.
  • Find data on Modern Slavery and the prevalence in Devon.
  • Further develop idea that NRMs and modern slavery routes are being underutilised for young people at risk of CCE, with implications around criminalisation. Boys may be at greater risk of being criminalised because of their involvement in CCE.
  • Carry out further work within Police data to ascertain domestic abuse where the person carrying out this harm is a parent or carer, within a serious violence context.

Section three: Youth violence

We are giving specific focus to violence involving young people to understand this area in more detail. We aim to explore the specific types of violence that take place and give voice to young people’s experiences and responses. This section will focus on violence taking place toward and by young people under 18, whilst recognising that young people as a group can be considered to encompass the ages up to 25.

We have taken a holistic approach to violence and harms taking place during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, including peer to peer harms, to take account of incidents which young people may consider harmful. This approach recognises that harms and violence at all levels of perceived severity can have impacts on young people and can, in some cases, contribute to the occurrence of more severe violent actions.

The language in this section is reflective of the importance of recognising that childhood, adolescence and early adulthood are times of development for young people; it is therefore unhelpful for children who show harmful behaviours to be considered and responded to as ‘offenders’ or perpetrators of violence and abuse. Considering harmful behaviours in the context of a binary perpetrator/victim lens is also unhelpful and inappropriate and could lead to labelling of young people at an early age. 

Nature scope and prevalence

The term ‘offenders’ has been used in Police data to distinguish people receiving an outcome for committing an offence however, as noted above this is problematic, especially in relation to children who commit offences. Devon and Cornwall Police operate a ‘Child First’ approach to young people who commit crime and have an understanding that many children who offend are also victims in their own rights. The term ‘offender’ will only be used to make clear differences when discussing the data.

Serious violence amongst younger people is a concern across Devon.

In Police data across November 2018 – October 2022 victims under the age of 26 amount to 38% of all victims. In the same period, 32% of those recorded as carrying out this violence were under the age of 26.

Further and more detailed data regarding the nature and scope of violence committed by young people can be found within that of the Youth Justice Service (YJS).

Devon Youth Justice Service

Young people enter the YJS when they are arrested on suspicion of carrying out an offence. Many young people will not enter the formal criminal justice system, either due to a No Further Action decision or due to a range of interventions put in place to prevent this escalation where possible. Resultingly, a very small proportion of young people now reach the formal criminal justice system.[43]

Between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2023 around a total of 1000 offences took place each year. In 2021/22, there were 38 serious violence offences, in 2022/23 there were 52 serious violence offences.


Bar chart shows YJS Cohort, per year.

Within the YJS data, ‘Serious Violence’ is defined as ‘any drug, robbery or violence against the person offence that has a gravity score of five or more’. Serious violence offences and sexual offences accounted for very small proportions of total offences in each year; serious violence offences accounted for 3% of all offences in 21/22 and 5% in 22/23. Sexual offences accounted for 3% of all offences in 21/22 and 2% in 22/23.  This represents a slight increase in the proportion of serious violence offences but a small decrease in the proportion of sexual offences, over the two years. 

Within YJS data, the majority of serious violence offences are committed by young white males between the ages of 16-18. Females coming to the attention of the YJS for serious violence have decreased over the two years. However, due to low numbers, conclusive trends cannot be identified.


Pie chart shows breakdown of sex within YJS cohort 1/4/21-31/3/23.


Bar chart shows breakdown of age within YJS cohort 1/4/21-31/3/23. Note above charts will contain duplicate individuals.

The latest national HM Inspectorate of Probation Annual Report into youth justice has drawn attention to a low but increasing number of girls coming into Youth Justice Services nationally, calling for greater focus on understanding drivers, needs and how these girls can be best supported.[44] This is not evidenced in the data set from the YJS in Devon, however the rise of young female violence has been noted by some partners.[45] This is an area to monitor.

The Devon YJS has shared their ‘Serious Violence Toolkit.’ The data set evaluated for the purposes of this needs assessment analyses data from Q1 2016, up to Q4 2022-23. The Toolkit contains children aged 11-17 cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence.

Provisional findings are summarised below:

  • Serious youth violence offences and the number of individuals involved in committing them are increasing. There are peaks and troughs in this data, however provisional data indicates that Q4 2022/23 will be the highest peak in the recorded time frame. 
  • In the year ending March 2023, the rate of serious violence offences per 10,000 children aged 0-17 in Devon is higher than that of the national average.

Peer to Peer violence

Data suggests that violence committed by those under 18 towards victims who are also under the age of 18 is increasing.

Partner insight suggests that peer to peer violence or harm can take place in many forms. In addition, they have indicated that violence between young people is unlikely to be reported to the Police; therefore, crime or YJS data may only provide a partial picture.

Prior experience of carrying out or being a victim of peer-to-peer harmful behaviour, especially harmful sexual behaviour, may be an important feature in youth justice cohorts. Given current information gaps this may benefit from exploration. This supports the idea that there is substantial overlap between victims and those carrying out harm, and the roles of ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’ cannot be clearly distinguished in many cases. Intersectionality in the needs of young people who are victims and who harm is also apparent and is explored in Section Four.

Gaps remain in our understanding of the occurrence of violence and harmful behaviour in the children and young person cohort.

A note on Hate Crime

Serious violence amongst young people and in schools must be contextualised in relation to hate crime.

In Police data, hate crime comprises around 1.8% of all serious violence offences across November 2018-October 2022. It is however possible that many hate crime incidents are never reported.

When looking at those who are linked to committing a hate crime related serious violence offence, across the four years, 35% were under 18. There are, however, very few people linked to these incidents (i.e., 40/113 were under 18). Within Police data, hate crime seems to be perpetrated in younger age groups. The majority of victims of hate crime related serious violence are also under 18.

Nearly one third of all hate crime related serious violence offences (with a linked ‘offender’) are peer to peer, whereby the person committing an offence and the victim is under 18.

This data helps contextualise the following sections regarding racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and ableism in schools.

Peer to peer violence in schools

Violence and harmful behaviour in various forms is happening in schools in Devon.

In 2023, general bullying, misogyny, harmful sexual behaviour, racism and fights were the top five concerns reported by Devon school staff according to the Devon Schools Harmful Behaviour Survey.


Bar chart shows concerning behaviour in schools, by number of staff reporting and number of staff reporting as the top concern.

The survey was responded to by 142 staff members, predominantly safeguarding leads and headteachers, including 2 staff members working in schools in Torbay. As there was no restriction to stop multiple members of staff from the same school responding to the survey, it is possible that this occurred. This has the potential to skew the data if the staff members had the same experiences of the harm happening within their school. However, there was diversity in responses based on location (North Devon, South & West Devon, East & Mid Devon, Exeter, and Torbay) and school type (preschool, primary, secondary, college, SEND specific, pupil referral unit, alternative provision).

Qualitative themes from the survey highlight risks around social media and online spaces, increased physical aggression between peers and towards staff, including fights, and inappropriate language, including racist, homophobic, sexual, and misogynistic slurs and comments. Partners have also anecdotally reported in recent years concerns around racism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny in schools, which seem to correlate with the findings from the Devon schools’ survey.

Another local data set indicates that harm is occurring in schools. According to the Bullying, Prejudice and Racism Overview report published by Devon Education Service, which covers Bullying, Prejudice and Racism Incidents in schools in Devon, over 400 incidents were reported between 01/01/2023-31/12/2023. Of these, the top 3 concerns were as follows; 64% related to racism, 13% related to bullying, 7% related to sexual orientation.[46]

Homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia have been reported by some schools in Devon. Anecdotally, representatives of LBGTQ+ organisations in Devon such as Intercom Trust, Xplore and Proud2be, have shared concerns around violence directed towards LGBTQ+ young people, including violence linked to transphobia. In conversation with colleagues working at these organisations we have heard that LGBTQ+ young people are facing risks from other young people, including at school, from adults in the community, and within their own homes. Colleagues we have spoken to have reported a normalisation of violence and discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community. It has also been shared that some teachers do not challenge homophobic or transphobic language in schools which may make young people who identify as LBGTQ+ feel as though this kind of treatment is condoned. From these insights it is likely that a proportion of incidents of hate and violence are not reported at school or to the Police.

It is key that early intervention within schools occurs. There is a link between violence in settings such as schools and later criminal justice involvement. International evidence has shown this, highlighting the importance of addressing violence in young people in its earliest forms.[47]

Increase in aggression and violence in schools towards peers and staff is evidenced locally and nationally.[48] It is key that violence within schools is taken seriously as a factor contributing to overall levels of serious violence.

Opportunities

Engage with Education services colleagues to ensure children in Devon learn from a young age about the effects of violence and online bullying.

Engage with LBGTQ+ organisations to better understand and combat serious violence involving young people who identify as part of this community.

Peer to peer violence within Police data

In the four years from November 2018 to October 2022, 8% of all crimes that identified someone as an ‘offender,’ contained both a child victim and a child who committed an offence under the age of 18.[49] There has been fluctuation in the number of ‘peer to peer’ crimes over time, likely due to lockdown restrictions. However, when comparing the most recent year, November 2021 to October 2022 where 166 peer to peer crimes took place, against pre covid November 2018 – October 2019 where 131 peer to peer crimes took place, there has been a 27% rise in peer-to-peer crimes.

The types of crimes occurring vary, however the most prevalent offence group is Violence with Injury. Although figures are small, there has been a 235% increase in Stalking and Harassment offences within the peer-to-peer cohort (2018/19 14 Stalking and Harassment offences, in 2021/22 this was at 47).This offence type includes offence descriptions that vary in severity. Harassment can include bullying, sending abusive messages, unwanted communication or sending unwanted gifts. Stalking is a more aggressive form of harassment and can include regularly following someone or hanging around their places of work or residence, as well as watching or spying on someone.[50]

Demographics of those involved in the peer-to-peer violence cohort alters to that of the demographics of general serious violence. 70% of crimes in the peer-to-peer group were committed by males, whilst 52% of victims were male. When observing serious violence in totality, 83% of serious violence crimes were committed by males, whilst 40% of victims were male.

Female to female peer violence

In Police data young female to female serious violence is increasing. In November 2018 – October 19, there were 26 crimes with a female victim and female who committed an offence, under the age of 26, in November 21 – October 22 this was 55. These figures are low and are likely to have been impacted by a lack of reporting during Covid, however this is an increase of around 90%. 


Bar chart shows number of crimes where Offender and Victim are female, under age of 26, across November 2018 – October 2022.

It should be noted that these findings around an increase in female-to-female crimes should not be overstated, as over 80% of all serious violence offences within the four-year period are committed by males. 

It is likely that young female-to-female violence is increasing more generally, which includes all VAWG offences, not just those within the scope of serious violence. For example, when observing the peninsula-wide Police Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Local Problem Profile, there are indications that female peer on peer violence is an increasing concern.[51]

It highlights that there has been an emerging pattern, within analytical policing products, of female perpetrated violence in younger cohorts predominantly with female victims. This is particularly evident in public spaces linked to the Evening and Night-time Economy.  

It is also true within educational venues. For example, Perpetrators of VAWG offences in Educational Spaces are predominantly females (72.4%). However, it is important to remember that VAWG in education spaces only amounts to 1% of total VAWG crimes. Anecdotal information from partners also indicates that female to female violence between girls and young women is taking place in schools. 

Female perpetrated VAWG should not be over-stated, the profile consistently highlights that the majority of VAWG offences are perpetrated by men​.

Harmful sexual behaviour

Harmful sexual behaviour is discussed in detail in the Devon Interpersonal and Gender-Based Violence and Abuse (IG-BVA) Needs Assessment. Key findings are summarised below.

National and local sources indicate that for some children and young people sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are so commonplace they are not reported. This makes it difficult to determine prevalence.  

Harmful sexual behaviour is a feature of serious cases of sexual harm in young people seen by specialist services including the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) and Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) Service.

The roles of ‘victim’ and ‘harmer’ are difficult to distinguish. Children and young people experiencing harm and who harm themselves are likely to experience intersecting needs. In the case of children who harm, there is little or no assessment or support for them and an overreliance on criminal justice processes.

Anecdotal insights from the Devon YJS indicate that harmful sexual behaviour is a recurrent theme for some young people seen through the service. As noted in the IG-BVA Needs Assessment, there appears to be a lack of understanding that young people coming to the attention of the criminal justice system for harmful sexual behaviour offences are victims themselves. It is not currently possible to establish whether the cohort of young people in the YJS who have committed sexual violence offences have previously carried out, or been a victim of, harmful sexual behaviour.  There is evidence of a small proportion of young people in YJS data who have experienced sexual exploitation, but this is narrower in scope than harmful sexual behaviour generally. It would be helpful to explore this information gap.

There is some local data around harmful sexual behaviour. DYS Space secured funding from The UK Shared Prosperity Fund, through Teignbridge District Council, to deliver a 6-week programme to young people at risk of experiencing/at risk of displaying harmful sexual behaviour. The project is still in its infancy. So far, the experiences of 17 girls aged 13 and 14 have been collected.

As part of this, the girls took an anonymous survey to identify their thoughts and feelings around the sexual behaviours they are witnessing and experiencing. It was found that:

  • 52% had received unwanted physical touching
  • 76% had experienced unwanted sexual images
  • 70% had experienced controlling behaviour from a partner

In a recent national report by the Youth Endowment Fund, it was highlighted that misogyny is commonplace on social media platforms like TikTok and Telegram.[52] The report was written following a survey of over 7,500 13 to 17-year-olds in England and Wales. In addition, 26% of young people have seen content online that encouraged violence against women and girls.[53]

The online space, social media, and pornography are concerns. This includes the sharing of explicit images online, and access to easily available adult pornography – with research suggesting a link between viewing pornography and harmful sexual behaviour in young people.[54] Both themes were also identified as concerns by secondary schools in the Devon Schools Harmful Behaviour Survey. 

Opportunities

A Reactive and Harmful Sexual Behaviour Panel is currently being set up across Targeted Early Help services, which will include training and supervision for practitioners, information, advice and guidance for partners and a route into service delivery where needed. The Panel will focus on harmful behaviours which are sexually motivated and also on behaviours which are reactive to specific situations for a child, but which result in inappropriate behaviour which can be seen as sexual.

Maintain data capture through work such as DYS Space programme.

Engage with colleagues within Education to ensure children in Devon are aware of Harmful Sexual Behaviour and to educate school aged children on healthy relationships.

Serious violence online and on social media

Exposure to violence on social media appears commonplace for young people. This includes witnessing violence and criminal activity, and sexual violence. There are reports that this kind of violence is normalised.

In lived experiences work with young people carried out by DYS Space (2022) young people reported seeing a lot of violence and criminal activity on social media, including shootings, stabbings, hangings, and suicide, all were mentioned multiple times.

The Youth Endowment Fund survey (2023)[55] of young people’s experiences of violence also highlighted violence online and on social media as a major theme:

  • 60% of children said they had seen violence on social media. The most common violence was fighting (48%) and threats of physical assault (36%). A smaller proportion (19%) had seen sexual assaults.
  • 27% of children had seen content about gang membership on social media (children being part of a gang or promoting gang membership). 29% had seen another child carrying or promoting weapons on social media. It is unclear whether there were any regional differences in the proportion of children encountering this content on social media. 

This is a ‘nationally representative’ survey and spoke to young people across England and Wales, it is unclear if any young people from Devon were consulted.

It is clear from lived experience insights shared by local young people that online violence is a concern in Devon. 

In October 2023, DYS Space carried out a consultation around filming and fighting and focussed on the relationship between social media and violent behaviour as well as the impact violent content on social media has on young people. The consultation included anonymous surveys as well as activities by youth workers.

Note, there is no way to ascertain if multiple responses were given by the same young people. 

  • 52% of young people see violent content on social media
  • 45% have seen fights organised online
  • 36% have seen fights livestreamed
  • 80% identified witnessing bullying online
  • 60% disclosed they had been bullied online
  • 70% said social media is making violence worse

From this recent local work, it is highly likely that young people in Devon are exposed to online violence.

Online spaces and social media appear to be an important facilitator of violence. They have enabled access to pornography and the sharing of explicit pictures which are key concerns around harmful sexual behaviour. This is also evident in young people describing transition of online violence to offline physical altercations and fights.

The role of the internet and social media in influencing perceptions of violence seems unclear and can be considered an intelligence gap. Local and national lived experiences research, as summarised above, indicates social media is important in shaping young people’s perceptions of violence.

Weapons related violence

Nationally, weapons are responsible for around 15% of all violent incidents, and more than half of all homicides (Brennan, 2022). Knife crime in particular is a key priority in the government’s response to serious violence and is specified as an area of focus in the Serious Violence Duty.

Data around knife crime in Devon is limited. There are knowledge gaps in the current trends in knife crime post October 2022, as well as the contextual behaviours around it. Some contextual behaviours and trends identified nationally may not reflect the picture in Devon. Until more current data becomes available, we cannot determine whether knife related violence is an increasing trend.

Police data outlined below is based on offences that get assigned a ‘Knife Crime Flag.’ This should occur when a knife is present or used within an offence, however the use of the flag is inconsistent. 

Weapons related violence applies to use of a weapon in an offence, this is not limited to a knife incident. However, other weapons do not have ‘flags’ within the Police data.

Possession of weapons offences have increased 49% from November 2018-October 2019 to the latest Police data available November 2021 – October 2022.[56]

It is worth mentioning that hospital admissions for knife/sharp object assaults can provide an important supplementary source of data. However, this data is currently not available for Devon, but work is ongoing to identify a long-term solution to its provision.

Knife crime

The Serious Violence Duty is concerned about knife crime within the youth cohort. Much of the quantitative evidence in Devon does not currently support the idea that knife crime is prevalent in the youth cohort.

The following evidence therefore applies to young people and adults.  

In the four years from November 2018 – October 2022 there were 957 crimes with a knife related flag. Only 162 related to Possession with Weapon offences. Most knife related crimes were Violence with Injury offences, where there was either presence or use of a knife.

Levels of knife crime remained stable from 18/19 to 21/22. It is likely that 21/22 will have been impacted by Covid restrictions. This is currently a data gap.

Males are more likely to be involved in knife crime as a victim or as an individual committing an offence. Out of 169 total unique people linked to committing a knife crime across the 4 years, 147 (86%) were male.

The most common age range for males who commit knife related offences was 26-35 and for females 36-45, however, numbers are too low to conclusively identify trends.

Bar chart shows knife crime Offenders. Note axis removed due to low figures.

From November 2018 to October 2022 around one thousand victims were linked to the flagged crimes. Of these, around 70% were male and 30% female.


Bar chart shows knife crime Victims.

Police data alone is limited in displaying the nature of knife crime in Devon. Firstly, crime data is only available to October 2022. In addition, crime data is limited in it is only what the Police have been made aware of. There will be a level of unreported knife crime incidents.

Other weapons

The following evidence applies to young people and adults.  

From key data sets analysed as well as anecdotal partner insight, knife crime seems to be the most prevalent within weapons related violence. However, violence involving other weapons does occur in Devon.

It should be stated again that Possession of Weapons offences have increased by 49% from 2018 – 2022 (numbers are small). However, the kind of offences within this offence group vary. In addition, they can relate to a number of weapons and a number of scenarios. For example, possession of a prohibited firearm with intent to cause a fear of violence to possession of ammunition without a certificate. There are varying degrees of severity and risk to wider public.

There are a relatively high number of legitimate gun licence holders in Devon and Cornwall, compared to other areas of the country,[57] likely due to its rurality and the link between farming and gun use. However, there have been around 60 ‘possession of a gun with intent to cause fear of violence,’ offences, in the four years between November 2018 – October 2022. This figure is low and therefore is not currently a theme to develop. Gun violence is not a theme amongst young people, as national indications suggest in urban areas.

It was however noted in a recent youth conference held by DYS Space that other bladed articles other than knives, for example razors, are being carried by young people.

Young people and knives

Youth knife crime is a specific focus within the Serious Violence Duty. However, current Police data does not support the idea that knife crime is a concern amongst young people in Devon. However, as previously addressed, Police data alone is limited.

DYS Space carried out peer-led consultation work with around 100 young people aged 11-19 in 2023 about their experiences and thoughts on knife crime.[58]

Findings from this work are summarised below. There may be duplication in these results from the same young people as we do not know how many distinct submissions were received. 

  • 52% of young people reported to know someone who carries a knife. A large number of these young people were from Exmouth and Tiverton. It may be that some participants may know the same young people who carry knives.
  • 48% were concerned about friends or family being involved in knife crime.
  • Young people aged 13-15 were most likely to know young people who carry knives, followed by 11–12-year-olds and those aged 16+. The small sample size means these figures should be interpreted with caution.
  • Local differences were indicated; young people in Barnstaple and Exeter were most concerned that knife crime is a problem in their area (this is reflected in the Police data, with Exeter and Barnstaple having the highest rates of crime per head of population). 
  • Many young people were concerned in general and many mentioned knife crime in London.
  • Responses suggested a focus on carrying for protection and safety and misconceptions around the law: 32% of young people believed self- protection is a legally acceptable reason to carry a knife. Most common reasons given for why others may carry knives focused on protection of themselves/others and feeling unsafe.

Responses shared by young people included:

  • ‘I have carried around machetes legally a good chunk, and you can carry many forms of multitool knives without punishment if you have a good reason its fine.
  • ‘If you’re gonna get beaten up its genuinely safer to just take it than try and use a knife and have it used against you.’
  • ‘I carry a pocketknife for camping but also because I live near a lot of pubs and don’t feel safe.’
  • ‘You can buy knives of Temu [website] easily.’
  • ‘People carry them in gangs because they are told to.’
  • ‘Take a knife if you know that the other person in the fight will have one.’

Like the themes identified here, multiple studies have found that many young people carry knives for protection and to avoid becoming a victim, rather than to harm others.[59]

The numbers of victims and those carrying out violence in Devon are relatively low within Police data across the four years November 2018 – October 2022, therefore inferences around prevalent demographics should be treated with caution. 

Nevertheless, from Police data currently available in Devon, knife crime seems to be an issue within the 26–35-year-old cohort. This is the age range with the highest number of both victims and people who offend. This diverges from the national picture that implies knife crime is more prevalent in teenagers or the under 18 cohort. In Devon, under 18s are the third most prevalent cohort as victims and as those who commit an offence. 

Anecdotally, and from qualitative evidence, we understand that knife crime within the under 18 cohort is an increasing concern. It is important to emphasise the fact that figures of those who offend are extremely low, and that Police data is also unlikely to reflect the extent of knife crime taking place.

Given current limitations on available data, knife crime is an area that would benefit from further local research. 

Exploitation of young people

In this section we will explore exploitation that young people are subjected to. This is an area which is currently being developed with limited quantitative data, however there are some data sets available.

Data informing the picture of exploitation in Devon in the needs assessment has been collated and provided by Devon County Council Reach team. It combines several routes for exploitation referrals, including the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and Safer Me referrals.[60] This data aims to provide a snapshot of Childrens Social Services understanding of exploitation. Data is not available from the Early Help team, where new and emerging concerns around children are gathered. There is therefore a current level of exploitation unable to be captured from Childrens Services.

Caveats apply to data provided by the Reach team,

  • Data covers April 2022-March 2023.
  • Data is manually inputted and may underreport the true extent of exploitation.
  • Data from the Police shared via the MASH may not strictly relate to exploitation, although in some instances is removed.
  • Safer Me Assessments are only made for children open to social care.
  • Data from Early Help is not currently captured.

Information sent by the Reach team gives a brief overview on the demographic of those being exploited as well as the type of exploitation occurring. In the year to March 2023, 157 MASH enquiries were made, (15% decrease on the previous year), key statistics from this data are as below:

  • 57% of young people were male, 43% were female.
  • 85% of young people were White British (the other 3 most prevalent ethnicities were White Other, Any Other Ethnic/Mixed and White and Black African).
  • Young people were mainly aged 15 and over.
  • CCE (Child Criminal Exploitation) and CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation) were the biggest concerns, with a consistent theme around professionals being more likely to identify males as at risk of CCE and females at risk of CSE. Males were also more likely to be identified at being at risk though their involvement in youth violence / gangs.
  • 13% of referrals were No Further Actioned, indicating that the vast majority of referrals did contain children at risk.

Practitioner insights indicate that CCE is generally linked to drugs, with business models varying, including county lines and Class A, local dealers, and also recreational drugs. Practitioners have also highlighted that youth violence and exploitation tends to involve other elements such as anti-social behaviour.

Practitioners have indicated that some young people referred to the Exploitation Hub are also known to the Youth Justice Service, Youth Intervention Team or may have had multiple Police contacts, with this particularly the case for young people at risk of CCE. There is currently no way to see this cross-over through data held between the services.

However, data from the Youth Justice Service for 21/22 shows that 28.9% of young people who committed a serious violence offence had previous experience of criminal exploitation, and 0 young people had prior experience of sexual exploitation. In 22/23 19.2% of young people who committed a serious violence offence had prior criminal exploitation and 11.5% had prior sexual exploitation (this amounted to 6 offences in total linked to prior sexual exploitation).[61]There is currently no way to determine whether there has been a change in recording methods which caused this rise in figures.

This indicates potential disproportionality around children, especially boys and young men, exploited through CCE being criminalised when they may be victims of modern slavey.

The 2020 Child Safeguarding National Review Panel’s review of safeguarding children at risk of exploitation focused on 21 children from 17 areas who died or experienced serious harm. The review found that the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) was not well understood and was inconsistently used, and noted disparities in safeguarding and intervention practices for perpetrators of criminal exploitation compared to the approaches taken for children who are sexually exploited (Commission on Young Lives, 2022).[62]

The Commission on Young Lives (2022) highlights the vulnerability of girls and young women to CCE and CSE. Key risks for girls are cited as grooming to hold weapons and drugs for males, being sexually assaulted, raped and being in violent relationships. CSE and CCE often co-occur, and recruitment into CCE often happens through boyfriends and older partners, for example through the ’loverboy model,’ where young girls are made to feel safe and loved by older males, who are grooming them for exploitation purposes.

Lived experience research in Somerset identified similar themes around girls being groomed into criminal exploitation.[63] This research also highlights the role of social media as a method of recruitment, and in creating pressure through promoting lifestyles which young people seek to emulate, leading them to become involved in exploitation.

Concerns have been raised around the gendered identification of CCE and CSE, leading to an underrepresentation of young women and girls experiencing CCE as well as the number of young men experiencing CSE, especially where both forms of exploitation co-occur (Crest, 2020a).

Care experienced children may have heightened vulnerability to exploitation, with this compounded in some cases by accommodation provisions such as unregulated settings and out of area placements, especially where young people may already be vulnerable or have encountered exploitation, and where they have been moved out of area and away from trusted relationships. The Commission on Young Lives highlights a link between the use of these placements and higher missing episodes. Missing episodes can be used as an indicator of vulnerability to contextual harms, including exploitation.[64]

Opportunities

Embed consistent and high-quality practice across our systems in relation to the Adolescent Safety Framework.

Work with care settings to help intervene and prevent child involvement in violence.

Young people’s perception of serious violence

Understanding young people’s perceptions of violence is important for gaining an insight into their experiences of violence and harm and considering what it means to grow up as a young person in Devon. It can also help us understand how young people navigate and respond to harms they encounter. 

Experiences and perceptions of violence and harms will differ, and the findings shared below will not be reflective of all young people. Intersectional factors including demographics, protected characteristics, life circumstances and prior victimisation or involvement in violence and harmful behaviour are likely to influence young people’s perceptions.

Lived experience research carried out by DYS Space during 2022 and 2023 identified key themes likely to be influencing young people’s perceptions of violence, feelings of safety and their responses.

Responses included:

  • Normalisation of violence, especially online violence, with threats, physical violence, bullying and sexual harassment commonplace.
  • Not feeling safe – violence between peers and issues in the local environment (drugs, crime, unlit areas, lack of safe spaces) meant young people didn’t feel safe.
  • Safety was also a factor in how young people responded to the risk of violence (safety and protection were highlighted as important reasons why others may carry knives; young women reported going out with male companions to feel safe).
  • Importance of social media to perceptions to violence.
  • Concerns about certain types of violence, including knife crime.
  • Young people identified peer pressure and reputation as important drivers for involvement in violence – discussed further in section four.
  • Young people do not feel listened to and respected, in particular by school staff and police.

Similar findings are reflected in the Youth Endowment Fund’s national survey of young people’s experiences of violence (2022), which found that:

  • Children feel less safe in places without adult supervision, including parks, streets, pubs, and nightclubs.
  • Half of all children thought social media was a major factor in violence, increasing to 62% of children who were victims of violence.

(The 2023 report displayed similar results around where children felt safe or unsafe. It highlighted that 42% of children thought social media was a major factor, in the 2023 report there was a focus on the kind of violence occurring and on which platforms).

The 2022 survey also reported that children felt gangs and drugs were the main drivers of youth violence. This differs from findings identified through local lived experiences work where, peer pressure and reputation have emerged as the most important factors as identified by young people, with safety also featuring prominently. As part of the Peer Action Collective Youth Violence Project, DYS Space employed three young people to be peer researchers. From this project, it was found that 16.5% of young people believed violence occurred due to peer pressure. 15% said violence occurred between young people as they thought it was cool. 16.5% of young people also thought that young people got involved in violence to fit in.

Crest identified that where young people did perceive crime to be increasing or staying the same, they were more likely to take steps to protect themselves, for example travelling in groups, skipping social events or, in extreme cases, carrying a weapon.[65] This highlights the real-world impacts of young people’s perceptions of and concerns around crime and violence on their behaviour and underlines the importance of understanding and responding to these issues through approaches that are informed by and involve young people. 

It is clear from the evidence above that young people at a local and national level are concerned about serious violence.

Gaps and further questions

Peer to Peer harm:

  • Develop an understanding of how exposure to peer harms may influence future involvement in serious violence.
  • Research more thoroughly the impacts of harmful sexual behaviour on both victims and those carrying it out.
  • Observe closely the data around young female violence.

Exploitation:

  • It is likely NRMs and modern slavery routes are being underutilised for young people at risk of CCE, with implications around criminalisation.
  • Understanding how far exploitation features in youth justice cohorts.
  • Understanding the role of social media in exploitation.

Knife crime:

  • Understand prevalence and nature of knife crime, and contextual factors surrounding the use and carrying of weapons in Devon, which is currently unknown.
  • The quantitative local evidence and qualitative local and national research seems to conflict at present.
  • Due to the focus on knife crime within the Serious Violence Duty, this is an area we will look to explore further as new data becomes available.  

Opportunities  

Challenge the normalisation of violence in young people and supporting them to develop healthy relationships, both intimate partner and peer to peer.​ This can be done through extending Let’s Talk sessions to parents and carers or through continued engagement with the Mentors in Violence Prevention bystander initiative in schools.

Section four: needs and drivers of serious violence.

Thus far, we have covered what kinds of serious violence is happening, where it is happening, and how it is happening to certain populations.

The aim and purpose of the next section is to explore why this serious violence is happening.

Key findings

  • Influences on vulnerability and resilience to serious violence occur from early years, continuing throughout childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood – highlighting the importance of a life course approach.
  • There is an acceptance that the first 1001 days in a child’s life are critical as they set the foundations for an individual’s cognitive, emotional, and physical development. There is a well-established and growing international consensus on the importance of this age range.
  • An ‘ecological’ lens to understanding needs and drivers is important – factors at individual, relational, community and societal levels influence vulnerability and resilience, including compounding impacts. Deprivation and inequality are recognised to increase vulnerability and amplify the negative impacts of needs and drivers throughout the life course.
  • Complexity – people who have carried out serious violence and are victims of violence often have multiple, complex, and intersecting needs. There is a need to understand trauma and how this impacts those who carry out violence.
  • There are likely common needs between children and adults who carry out violence, and indications of cycles of offending. However, evidencing these links is tricky.
  • Compounding vulnerability for certain groups – some groups are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and in factors known to increase vulnerability to violence (such as school exclusion). This includes young people with Special Educational Needs, young people on free school meals, and young people open to social care or who are care experienced. 
  • Differences in the needs of certain cohorts who have carried out violence – females who have carried out violence, and those who have committed sexual offences, both have different levels and presentations of needs compared to the average profile (predominantly males who have committed violent offences).
  • The importance of strengthening our local evidence base – we have a good understanding of the role of certain needs and drivers in local populations, however national findings and practitioner insights indicate the importance of additional factors where our local evidence is less developed. This includes childhood adversity and trauma, neurodiversity, and vulnerability to exploitation.

Introduction to needs and drivers

Needs and drivers explored in this assessment have been identified through local evidence and partner insight. The list is not exhaustive and is highly likely to change as our knowledge develops. Findings from national data and research are included to supplement our local evidence base, especially where this is limited.

Several factors have been identified, that can in certain circumstances or in combination with other factors influence the occurrence of violence. It is important to emphasise that the evidence evaluated in this needs assessment does not indicate that any need or driver analysed is causally linked to the committing of serious violence. Evidence suggests that a combination of needs and drivers are more likely to heighten the risk of someone becoming involved in serious violence.

There is currently limited readily available data around the needs of victims, therefore there is a focus on the needs and drivers of those who commit serious violence in this needs assessment.

This information builds on the exploration of needs and drivers undertaken in the Devon Profile for Intra and Extra Familial Youth Violence (Safer Devon Partnership, 2021) which identified several needs and drivers (‘risk factors’) and protective factors (see diagrams below).

Risk factors rarely exist in isolation and are often interlinked. The impact of these factors will vary between individuals and can depend on their levels of resilience and protective factors (Safer Devon Partnership, 2021).[66]

We have focused on needs and drivers identified as most prevalent whilst acknowledging the importance of the intersecting impact of factors at individual, relational, community and societal levels in creating and compounding, or decreasing, vulnerability and risk. This can also be called taking an ecological approach to understanding needs and drivers (World Health Organisation).[67]


Figure 1: Ecological model of risk factors for violence, adapted from the Devon Profile for Intra and Extra Familial Violence (2021) and the World Health Organisation 


Figure 2: Ecological model of protective factors for violence, adapted from the Devon Profile for Intra and Extra Familial Violence (2021) and the World Health Organisation 

The following diagram is intended to encourage the view of needs as interlinking and not to be considered in isolation of one another.

Figure 1: Ecological model of needs and drivers relating to serious violence.
Graphic displays the ecological model of needs and drivers relating to serious violence.

Childhood experiences

Childhood trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Research has consistently outlined the impact of childhood trauma and adversity on health, wellbeing, and social outcomes and in creating vulnerability to criminality and violence across the life course.[68] These findings have been explored in detail in the Devon Profile for Intra and Extra Familial Youth Violence (Safer Devon Partnership, 2021).[69]

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with vulnerability to violence across the life course. They can also transmit intergenerationally, creating potential for cycles of violence to occur within families.[70] National research shows that ACEs are associated with greater likelihood of being a victim or perpetrator of violence, including intimate partner violence, and of being involved in the criminal justice system.[71]   

In a research article authored by Bellis et al, whereby a national survey was analysed, it has been found that adults with multiple and compounding disadvantages, such as substance misuse, poor health and violent or unhealthy relationships are likely to have experienced ACE’s.[72] Modelling that took place in relation to the national survey suggested that 52% of violence perpetration could be attributed to ACE’s. Furthermore, the study showed that exposure to multiple stressors in childhood is associated with subsequent involvement in violence as either a victim or perpetrator, including intimate partner violence. Together, these sexual and violent behaviours create a mechanism for intergenerational passage of ACEs and their health consequences.[73]

Types of ACEs are numerous and varied. Important experiences identified in research include child abuse and neglect, parental substance misuse and mental health, domestic violence and abuse in the home as well as familial imprisonment.[74] Some of these will be explored further below.

Multiple ACEs have been found to have a cumulative effect on outcomes in adulthood. Analysis from the Early Intervention Foundation (2020) suggests this relationship appears strongest for psycho-social behaviours such as poor mental health, problematic alcohol and drug use, and interpersonal and self-directed violence. [75]

Childhood trauma and adversity has been evidenced to have neurodevelopmental impacts. Consequently, traumatic experiences during early years, including the first 1,001 days (2 ½ years) of life are viewed to be particularly crucial for later outcomes.[76]

Furthermore, it has been found that ACEs occur across society, but are far more prevalent among people experiencing poverty, isolation, and deprivation; social inequalities increase the likelihood of ACEs and amplify their negative impacts.[77]

Protective factors during childhood including trusted relationships with peers and community factors such as social cohesion can mitigate the impacts of ACEs.[78]

Prevalence estimates are imprecise; however, research has demonstrated that a significant proportion of justice-involved children and adults in prison have experienced ACE’s.[79] There is evidence to suggest that many people in Devon who commit serious violence offences, have experienced childhood trauma and adversity in some form. Therefore, it is likely that this is a key driver of violence.

Witnessing Domestic Abuse

A study by Gray, Smithson and Jump (2023) into justice involved young people in Manchester evidenced a relationship between witnessing and/or experiencing domestic violence, alongside other ACEs, and youth violence. The researchers observed that witnessing and/or experiencing domestic violence appeared to exacerbate young people’s tendency to respond to situations through anger and react to confrontational situations with violence.[80]  

Our understanding of the prevalence and importance of childhood domestic violence and abuse in young people and adults who carry out harmful behaviour is emerging and would benefit from further research. However local data can tell us the following:

  • Analysis undertaken in Devon in 2021 found that 49% of First Time Entrants into the YJS within a twelve-month period had experienced domestic abuse as either a victim or witness.
  • On average, 85% of adults displaying harmful behaviour that have engaged in community behaviour change programmes in Devon report having experienced domestic abuse as children, indicating the likely cyclical nature of domestic abuse and its longstanding impacts.[81]
  • 83% of young people in Turning Corners in 2019/20 had experienced domestic abuse as a victim or witness.[82]

However, the evidence about the impacts of witnessing domestic violence and abuse during childhood is unclear. It is believed that there is a relatively small existing evidence base.[83]

This is an area that we aim to further develop. 

Opportunities

To work with Devon and Cornwall Police Intelligence Department to develop the intelligence picture around current first-time entrants and their potential history of domestic abuse.

Parental and caregiver needs

Although not a specific focus of research, our partners have raised the importance of the needs of parents and caregivers. Parental and caregiver needs can give rise to environments or situations that could be traumatic for young people, making them vulnerable to involvement in crime.  Needs highlighted include substance misuse, mental health issues, and involvement in violence and crime (including outside of the family home) as areas of concern. Familial imprisonment and involvement in crime is to be explored further in the following section.

It is highly likely that there is a cohort of adults who care for children in Devon, who have a complex set of needs.

The Devon Young Person’s Behaviour Change Project is a service working with young people who display harmful behaviour. The service works with these children if they meet certain referral criteria, including being a witness to victim of domestic violence. Practitioners have shared that of the 28 children within the service over 1/4/22-31/3/23, 13 (46%) noted that a parent also has a mental health need.

Furthermore, local data from the first Turning Corners cohort, who were identified as at risk of committing crime and anti-social behaviour in 2019-20, indicates that 39% had grown up in a household where adults experienced alcohol/drug issues, 17% had experienced parental abandonment, and 16% had a parent living with a mental health condition. It is unclear how many children experienced living with care givers who had several of these needs, however from anecdotal evidence we believe this is possible.

It is however, unclear how generalisable these findings may be to other cohorts of young people in Devon.[84]

This local evidence indicates that parental and caregiver needs often have a negative impact on children that may heighten the risk of them becoming involved in crime or violence.

Parental Imprisonment

Children who experience parental imprisonment are more likely than their peers to experience multiple ACEs, educational, health and social disadvantage and exclusion, shame and stigmatisation, have complex behaviour and emotional needs, and be arrested and imprisoned later in life.[85]

According to the HM Inspectorate of Probation, a parental criminal conviction has been found to be the best predictor of future offending at the age of 10.[86]

Specifically, maternal imprisonment is understood to have potentially even greater impacts on children than paternal imprisonment since mothers are more often the sole or primary carer. Crest identified a ‘significant cohort’ of mothers in the criminal justice system who have had children removed from their care.[87]

There is no current system for identifying the children and families of people in the criminal justice system and no nationally recorded data on the number of people who pass through the criminal justice system with dependent children (Centre for Social Justice, 2022).[88]

There is some local data to draw evidence that familial imprisonment may be a driver of violence within Devon:

In 2023 DYS Space Youth Service undertook peer led consultation work with young people to collect their lived experiences and create dialogue with organisations to improve service offers in Devon. In recognition of the invisibility and stigmatisation of young people with experience of familial imprisonment the work engaged groups of young people from a variety of backgrounds in schools, youth clubs and 1:1 services (DYS Space, 2023b).

Findings have included:

Out of 36 young people aged 12-15, 44% had experienced a family member going to prison. This figure from such a small sample ‘highlights the quantity of young people who are slipping through the cracks and are not receiving support’.

Many of the young people who disclosed had no support and had not informed their school.

Young people indicated that parental imprisonment had, or would have, impacts on their behaviour, their mental and physical health, and home life.

Qualitative insights from young people with lived experience of familial imprisonment included the impact of losing a parental figure; moving in with other caregivers, for example grandparents; stigma from the Police; teasing from peers; and feeling the need to uphold or build a reputation.

Parents and carers involved in general criminality

In addition, it is likely, that due to the scale of serious violence and criminality in Devon, children are being exposed to and becoming victims of criminality in their own homes. Exposure to these kinds of experiences may lead to an acceptance and normalisation of this behaviour and lead to future serious violence offending.

An American study showed that on average, children who have parents involved in criminality are 2.5 times more likely to become involved within criminality in the future.[89]

Evidencing this in local data has not been possible. However, anecdotally DYS Space have shared concerns around children with siblings involved in criminality as well as parents and carers involved in violence as being at higher risk of becoming involved in serious violence.

Shame

Shame is a complex negative emotional experience that can take many forms.[90] Shame has been closely linked to trauma. This is an emerging area of research, which indicates that events such as traumatic experiences and/or societal inequalities can cause an individual to experience shame.[91]

‘Chronic’ or ‘toxic’ shame is understood to result in behaviours and responses that mask the shame that people feel. These are outlined in what is called the ‘compass of shame’. These responses vary depending on the individual, and can include anger, aggression, hostility, and violence.[92]


Shame Compass by Dolezal 2023, adapted from Nathanson 1992 and Sanderson 2015.

From this diagram, shame is considered to be an important driver for violence and anti-social behaviour. 

Shame has also been identified as an important barrier to seeking and receiving support. Dolezal and Gibson (2022) highlight shame-sensitive practice as key to overcoming this barrier and avoiding further shaming and stigma when engaging with services.[93]

Shame competence training has been suggested as a way to help recognise and support someone who is experiencing the negative effects of the emotion in order to intervene or prevent violent acts that result from shame response, occurring.

There is already helpful local work occurring in this area. For example, The Shame Lab is a hub founded by scholars at the University of Exeter and Duke University in America, that research shame and its effects in professional practice and organisations. They believe that, ‘Shame Competence is a set of skills, principles and practices that can be learned by individuals and applied within teams and throughout an organisation. Shame competent individuals, teams, and organizations are able to constructively engage with shame to advance well-being, dignity, and inclusion.’

This work is co-led by Luna Dolezal and Will Bynum. Luna Dolezal has already offered shame competence training to staff within the Safer Devon Partnership. It is unclear on the number of staff who have completed this, and currently we have not been able to ascertain any feedback. It is recommended as part of the strategy that a wider range of staff are shame competence trained by an organisation or individual who are experts in this complex area.

Opportunities

Opportunity to extend the trauma stabilisation offer to children and families.

Opportunity to work with local experts on upskilling in relation to shame.

Care Experienced

Young people who are care experienced are disproportionately represented in the Youth Justice System, although only a minority of young people with these experiences ever become involved in crime and violence.  

For the purposes of this section, we refer to care experienced children as those where the local authority has become their corporate parent at some point during their childhood – often referred to as Looked After Children (LAC).

National studies estimate that between 37% and 50% of young people in custody have been in care, as a LAC, at some point in their lives.[94]

Care experienced children often face intersecting needs. For example, they are more likely to have experienced trauma. In addition, 64% of Devon’s care experienced children receive SEN (Special Educational Needs) support or have an EHCP (Education Health Care Plan).[95]

A relatively high proportion of young people in the Devon Youth Justice Service in 2021-22 and 2022-23, including young people who had carried out a serious violence offence, had LAC status.

  • In 21/22, 29% of Serious Violence offences were committed by care experienced ‘Looked after Children.’ 
  • In 22/23, 21% of Serious Violence offences were committed by care experienced ‘Looked after Children.’ 

Crest observes that LAC are at disproportionate risk of being groomed and exploited through county lines operations, highlighting particular vulnerabilities for children and young people who are moved into children’s homes and unregulated settings, sometimes a great distance from their home area.[96] According to Crest, data on children reported missing shows that children placed in these settings are at higher risk. Missing episodes are one of the indicators used to infer risk around exploitation. 

It is difficult to establish, from current local data available, the prevalence of care experience in the adult cohort who have committed serious violence offences. However, when observing national Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data, it was found that nearly a quarter of all men in prison had been reported to have been ‘Looked After Children.’[97]

Children open to social services

There are children in Devon who are open to social services but are not a ‘Looked after Children’ (LAC) by the Local Authority. Such children may have a Child Protection Plan (CPP), a Child in Need plan (CIN), or be open to Early Help services.

Ministry of Justice data from 2019/20 indicates that 57% of young people sentenced in the Youth Justice System were a current or previous child in need.[98]

There is a level of concern around these children becoming involved in violence. Children open to social care are likely to have experienced adverse childhood experiences or trauma and experience ongoing hardships. Practitioners within Early Help indicate that there may be a level of exploitation involved within children who are newly supported by the Council, however there is no current way to capture this data currently.

From DfE local authority dashboard data it has been noted that 62% of children in Devon, cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence, with a KS4 age ending in 2017/18, were a ‘Child in Need.’ This demonstrates the level of vulnerability within those children open to care services in Devon, becoming involved in serious violence.

There is data available from the YJS, which includes children that had a CIN Plan, CP Plan or CLA start date prior to their Offence date. (It is not possible to split out offences link to children who have LAC status).

  • In 21/22, 39% of Serious Violence offences were committed by children open to social care.
  • In 22/23, 44% of Serious Violence offences were committed by children open to social care.

The data indicates that children open to social care make up a large proportion of those who commit any offence. It also shows that this proportion is rising, however further years’ worth of data is needed to make conclusive inferences, this is something to monitor closely.

It is hard to evidence within the adult cohort assessed, which had childhood care status. It is reasonable to suggest that a proportion of the current adult cohort of have been care experienced at some point in their lives.

Opportunities

Develop a targeted, clear, and joined up offer for young people who have experienced multiple adverse experiences.

Explore opportunities for services to identify and respond flexibility to young people and adults’ intersecting needs, including where primary and secondary presenting needs may feature.

Enhance offer to care experienced children to help build protective factors and reduce involvement in crime perhaps via learning how to spot signs of exploitation.

Helping young people through own trauma / shame to focus on and address root causes of violence.

Transitions

Key life transitions have been highlighted by partners and in research as critical times for young people, including justice-involved young people and wider young person populations.

The transition from child to adult services, including the transition from Youth Justice to Probation, has been identified in national studies as creating the potential to increase risk for already vulnerable young people. Transitions within safeguarding, mental health and the care system have also been identified, including challenges where an adult ‘offer’ is not comparable to that for under 18s, creating a drop off in support and risk of continued harm.[99]

Young people sharing their experiences and views through Devon Youth Voice have highlighted the transition into adulthood as an area of importance and challenge. Transitions were found to be an area of challenge for the wider population of young people, with some areas of transition more acute for care experienced young people and young people with mental health needs, wider health needs and disabilities. These more acute areas of transition are:

  • The transition from child to adult health services, including physical and mental health services.
  • Transitions from school to college, and from education into employment.
  • Transitions into housing – with this a particularly challenging transition for care experienced young people who often transition directly into supported housing. Challenges were highlighted around the safety and affordability of housing and the difficulties of moving from supported to private rental accommodation.[100]

Opportunities

Transitional safeguarding has been suggested as a model which could provide a framework for young adults, including those in contact with the justice system, that takes account of their needs as a distinct group and provides an integrated response to the transition from childhood and adulthood and the transition between the safeguarding and justice systems (Holmes and Smith, 2022). The framework proposes the following approach: developmentally attuned, relational and participatory; and contextual and ecological, considering the influences on a young person across individual, familial, peer, community and societal factors and across the places, spaces and social contexts where they feel safe and unsafe (Holmes and Smith, 2022).

Educational Challenges

Educational challenges are present within the cohort of young people who commit serious violence offences. 

There is potential that educational challenges experienced by children are often a result of undiagnosed needs. For example, Kirby (2021) indicates higher rates of neurodivergent traits amongst children excluded from school. However, given the lack of routine screening for neurodivergence, research in this area is limited and the generalisability of these findings is unclear.[101]

It may be that children facing educational challenges have unrecognised concerns around earlier childhood experiences. However, evidencing this is difficult.

There has been national recognition that disengagement from education, including through suspension and exclusion, is important in creating conditions for exposure to exploitation, criminality, and violence, and in triggering an escalation of risk (Youth Violence Commission, 2020; HM Inspectorate of Probation, 2023a; Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, 2020). 

Specific educational challenges we have observed within the serious violence cohort in Devon are, but not limited to, low attainment, suspensions and exclusions, periods of absence and attendance at alternative provisions.

According to Department of Education (DfE) local data dashboard,[102] children in Key Stage 4 from 2012/13-2017/18 who were cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence in Devon were found to have educational challenges. These were as follows.

  • Low educational attainment, (6% of pupils cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence achieved A*-C in KS4)
  • A high number of absence periods before the offence
  • A high number of suspensions and exclusions before the offence, (88% of children who were cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence had previously been suspended)
  • A high number of alternative provisions including before the offence.

Since the majority of exclusions, absence periods and alternative provisions occurred before young people carried out an offence, these factors appear strongly associated with committing a serious violence offence. However, it is important to note that the findings of this data cannot be considered as strictly causal. 

National analysis from the Department for Education also indicates a strong association between receiving a first suspension and being cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence. Receiving multiple suspensions and a permanent exclusion were found to be stronger predictors of being cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence at younger ages.[103]

In national analysis, male children who had previous exclusions, as well as those who attended alternative provisions were most likely to be cautioned or sentenced for serious violence offences. 22% of total male children who had been excluded were cautioned or sentenced for serious violence offences and 17% of male children who attended an alternative provision were cautioned or sentenced for serious violence offences. 

It is important to recognise that a very small percentage of total children with the characteristics listed in the diagram above went on to commit a serious violence offence. Again, these characteristics cannot be viewed as the cause of serious violence, alone.

A relatively high proportion of young people in the Devon YJS in 2021-22 and 2022-23, including young people who had carried out a serious violence offence, had received at least one prior exclusion. 

  • In 21/22 29% of ‘all other offences,’ 37% of serious violence and 8.1% of Sexual Violence offences were committed by children who had at least one prior exclusion. 
  • In 22/23 46% of ‘all other offences,’ 44% of Serious Violence and 17.4% of Sexual Violence were committed by children who had at least one prior Exclusion. (Double counting of young people present within these figures).


Bar chart shows YJS Data relating to excluded children from all cohorts across the two years.

School exclusion is evidenced to disproportionately affect certain groups of young people, including young people in receipt of free school meals, young people with special educational needs (SEN) and young people who have been in receipt of social care (Safer Devon Partnership, 2021). These same groups are overrepresented in the Youth Justice Service.[104]

The Devon Protocol for Supporting Children in Care in Schools aims to prevent exclusions for care experienced children, although it does not cover Children in Need (Devon County Council, 2018).

Furthermore, anecdotal insights indicate there is a degree of varied violence and harmful behaviour taking place in schools in Devon, that could be an indicator of future violence. As previously explored, general bullying, misogyny, harmful sexual behaviour, racism and fights were the top five concerns reported by Devon school staff according to the Devon Schools Harmful Behaviour Survey. Partners have anecdotally supported these findings and included misogyny and transphobia as current concerns. International evidence indicates links between school violence and later criminal justice involvement, highlighting the importance of addressing violence in young people in its earliest forms.[105]

Opportunities

Create inclusive, supportive education environments where all young people, including those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, can thrive, with a focus on strengthening their wellbeing, resilience, and opportunities.

Work with Alternative Provisions, which is linked to higher rates of serious violence offending, to identify those at risk of serious violence involvement and intervene.

Contextual experiences

Poverty and Deprivation

According to the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies[106] a large number of studies evidence a link between income inequality and violence. Coid et al found that young men living in deprived areas in the UK were more likely to commit more serious forms of violence towards others, although no link was found with less serious violence.[107]

The Youth Violence Commission (2020) identified socio-economic factors including employment prospects, housing affordability and deprivation as a core foundation of violence and highlighted child poverty as a key driver. 

Insights from the Drug Markets Profile (Devon and Cornwall Police, 2023) indicate that drug possession and trafficking offences are more likely to occur in more deprived postcodes, suggesting these areas are at greater risk of drug related violence.  

Within the DfE local authority data dashboard, 67% of children who were in Key Stage 4 from 2012/13-2017/18 and were cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence in Devon were eligible for Free School Meals. This could evidence a link between low-income families and children who become involved in serious violence. It should be stated that 1.3% of all children eligible for free school meals went on to be cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence.

The Devon Youth Justice Plan has highlighted that since the pandemic, the number of children eligible for free school meals in Devon has increased, indicating that poverty during childhood may potentially be increasing.[108] At the same time, youth violence is increasing, indicating that there could be a link.

There is evidence that poverty and deprivation can compound vulnerability to ACE’s and the impacts of these. There is also an indication that poverty and deprivation have an impact on child development with links to Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN), school readiness and outcomes.[109]

Influence of peer groups

The influence of peer groups has been identified as important for young people’s involvement in crime and violence.

It has been suggested by partners that some young people become involved in violence due to its normalisation within the younger cohort. Violence is seen as commonplace and therefore acceptable. At times violence is seen as cool and carrying out violence is a way to fit in with certain peer groups.

As part of the Peer Action Collective Youth Violence Project, DYS Space Youth Service employed three young people to be peer researchers. From this project, it was found that 16.5% of young people believed violence occurred due to peer pressure, 15% said violence occurred between young people as they thought it was cool and 16.5% of young people also thought that young people became involved in violence to ‘fit in.’

Anecdotal evidence from partners working in Devon highlights concerns around certain young person peer groups who are carrying out violence and a range of interlinked and wider harms in a group context. Furthermore, local practitioners have also indicated that young people with siblings who operate in violent peer groups are frequently at risk of becoming involved in youth violence.

These are emerging areas that would benefit from further exploration. 

Individual needs

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Children and young people with SEND all have ‘learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than most children and young people of the same age.’[110]

The SEND Code of Practice sets out four main areas of need including, communication and interaction, Cognition and Learning, Social, Emotional, Mental Health Difficulties and Sensory and/or Physical needs. A child or young person with SEND may have needs in one or more of these areas.

Neurodivergence

All human beings can be described as neurodiverse, as we all vary in the way our brains work. Since we take in information and process it in different ways, we therefore behave in different ways. The term neurodivergence refers to a wide range of neurological differences which may either enhance or be a barrier to learning. These differences include, but are not limited to, conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Classic Tic disorders, developmental coordination disorder, intellectual disability, and Developmental Language Disorder (DLD).[111]

Neurodivergence is not a synonym for Special Educational Needs, however many neurodivergent conditions can present as SEND, for example a SEND arising from autism.

Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN)

This is the term used to describe difficulties with:

  • producing speech sounds accurately
  • stammering
  • voice problems, such as hoarseness and loss of voice
  • understanding language (making sense of what people say)
  • using language (words and sentences)
  • interacting with others, for example, difficulties understanding the non-verbal rules of good communication or using language in different ways to question, clarify or describe things.[112]

SLCN will often present as SEND but cannot be seen to be synonymous with SEND. SLCN is a particular focus of this section, due to its prevalence in the younger cohort involved in serious violence and is developed further below.

It is important to note that Neurodivergence and Speech Language and Communication Needs cannot be viewed as subcategories of SEND, regardless of how data is presented within visualisations in the following sections.

Neurodivergence, SEND and serious violence within the youth cohort

Whilst research does not indicate a direct causal link between neurodivergence and engagement in serious violence, studies have shown that a substantive proportion of individuals within the serious violence cohort are neurodivergent. It is estimated that at least 1/3 of children and adults moving through the justice system are thought to be neurodivergent.[113]

It is key to stress the complexity surrounding drivers identified, and to note that we believe the compounding nature of these can contribute to increasing the risk of involvement in violence, as explored in more detail in the following paragraphs.

Children and young people with SEND are overrepresented in the Youth Justice System, as evidenced in local and national data. This includes young people who carry out serious violence offences.

Devon YJS data suggests SEND is more prevalent in the serious violence cohort than any other YJS cohort; in 2022-23 29% of serious violence offences were committed by a young person with SEND, however this was only the case for 17.5% of all other offences and 8.7% of sexual offences. It is unclear how far underreporting as well as under diagnosis of SEND may be a factor in this data.[114]


Bar chart shows YJS Data relating to children with SEND from all cohorts across the two years.

Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs are the most prevalent amongst the SEND needs identified across the two years. National research has shown 81% of children with SEMH have significant unidentified and unmet language needs.[115]

There is evidence to suggest that neurodivergence can be misdiagnosed as SEMH in certain cohorts. For example, children from lower socio-economic groups are more likely to get a diagnosis of SEMH, rather than autism or speech, language and communication challenges. This is called diagnostic overshadowing where we look for one thing more than another. For many children, ‘behaviour’ has been seen as the diagnosis without considering the underlying reasons.[116] Equally, professionals have suggested that SEMH needs can arise from developmental trauma and can on occasion be misdiagnosed as neurodivergence. Better understanding and training around these areas is recommended.

According to the DfE data dashboard, the majority of young people who were in Key Stage 4 from 2012/13-2017/18 and were cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence in Devon had SEND support or an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) in place. The most prevalent need in this cohort was Social Emotional and Mental Health, with 47% of total needs within the cohort relating to this.


Note data contained in charts above is taken at a Devon level from Department of Education. It displays data around the children in this cohort with SEND, and the breakdown of SEND category as according to DfE.

Often children will have more than one SEND type. This can present issues in determining which kinds of need can compound with other factors to potentially influence involvement in future violence. In relation to the breakdown of SEND data, it is likely that there is underdiagnosis and diagnostic overshadowing in these categories, therefore the representation of needs may not be fully accurate and may be subject to change.[117]

It is important to highlight that national DfE data indicates only 3% of total male children and 1% of total female children who have SEND in KS4 from 2012/13-2017/18, ever went on to commit a serious violence offence. There is no causal link between SEND and violence.

SEND is particularly important to explore as a driver, as children and young people with SEND are overrepresented in several factors identified to increase vulnerability to involvement in serious violence. This indicates that some children and young people with SEND may be more likely to experience compounding vulnerabilities that increase the risk of future involvement in and/or victimisation through crime and violence. For example, children with SEND are more likely than their peers to be excluded from education.[118]

National research highlights that often children and young people with SEND have unidentified and unmet needs. It is indicated that the very nature of these needs being unidentified could create conditions making them more vulnerable to involvement in violence. For example, Winstanley’s 2018 study highlights this as a significant issue within the context of the involvement of young people with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)[119] in crime.[120] Whilst this finding relates specifically to DLD, it is likely to hold relevance across the other areas of SEND needs; further exploration of this would be beneficial.

The latest HM Inspectorate of Probation Annual Report into Youth Justice identified high levels of neurodevelopmental conditions in Youth Justice caseloads, with the vast majority of the needs not being identified or met prior to children coming into the Youth Justice System.

Speech Language and Communication Needs within the youth cohort

SLCN is a hidden disability, and, at a national and local level, numbers of children/young people identified with SLCN are under reported.[121] However, there is substantive evidence that children and young people with SLCN face complex challenges, are overrepresented within vulnerable cohorts and are at increased risk of poor life chances and outcomes. Research has also shown that SLCN is ‘over-represented in sections of the population more likely to be in custody, for example, looked after children (McCool and Stevens 2011), and children at risk of exclusion from school’.[122]

Research has consistently found that at least 60-70% of Youth Justice cohorts have unidentified and unmet SLCN.[123]This is significant as language difficulties are a risk factor for the development of behaviour problems.[124] It has also been suggested that SLCN can give rise to difficulties with peer interaction, creating a potential vulnerability for association with other young people who are involved in criminal activity.[125]

Research from 2010 and 2011 for the Exeter, East and Mid Devon Youth Justice cohort highlighted a high prevalence of SLCN: screening for this cohort found 91% of young people to be at high risk of SLCN.

Devon Youth Justice Service data from 2020 found that young people who committed violent offences were 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed or referred for SLCN compared to those committing non-violent offences. Young people assessed to have SLCN were observed to have histories of educational failure and high levels of multiple exclusion and truancy (Safer Devon Partnership, 2021).

Accurate data on SLCN in the current Devon Youth Justice cohort is not currently available, meaning the above findings cannot be compared against more recent data. Work is underway to consistently include SLCN needs on the Devon YJS database which should, in time, allow for greater analysis of data. 

Interestingly, what does occur in the YJS is an automatic screening process of SLCN. The existence of this process as standard is an indicator of the prevalence of a SLCN within those children who commit violent offences. 

Research has shown that many children and young people who have experienced complex trauma or who don’t have secure attachment to their caregivers, have SLCN.[126] Whilst more research is needed to understand the role of pre-existing vulnerabilities and contextual factors in the consequences, and causes, of childhood adversities there is evidence that demonstrates a link between developmental trauma and neurodevelopmental conditions, and between developmental trauma and SLCN.[127] This link is complex, and is not considered to be causal. Instead, research indicates a complex interaction between genetics and the environment which, in some cases, can heighten vulnerability to neurodevelopmental conditions and SLCN.[128]

Traumatic Brain Injury and serious violence

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) leads to impairments in memory, cognitive ability, social communication, and the self-regulation of emotion and behaviour, and has been consistently linked with earlier, more frequent, and more violent offending.[129]

A number of other studies indicate that people in custody have far higher levels of TBI than the general population, for which the TBI estimate is around 8-12% (Kent and Williams, 2021). 

  • In a UK study of 200 adult male prisoners, Williams et al. (2010) found 60% reported a TBI of some kind. Around 15% experienced a severe TBI. Those who had a TBI were on average younger at the point of their first prison sentence and were more likely to reoffend. 
  • In a UK study of young males who had committed an offence aged 16-18, Kent et al. (2022) found 74% reported a lifetime TBI of any severity. 46% had experienced a TBI leading to a loss of consciousness (indicating greater severity).[130] More severe lifetime TBI was found to be associated with higher levels of self-reported reactive aggression (aggression in response to perceived threats or provocation). 
  • Young people who have offended with a history of TBI have also been found to be at greater risk of mental health problems including self-harm and suicide (Chitsabesan, 2015). 

TBI can occur as a result of an accident, or childhood abuse or neglect. It can also occur as a result of becoming a victim of serious Violence with Injury offences, for example GBH. 

TBI can also occur from domestic abuse, and this is viewed as a key reason why females (who are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse) may experience a TBI. In a study in Scottish prisons McMillan et al. (2021) evidenced that 78% of women in the study had experienced significant TBI, with 89% of these TBI injuries being caused by domestic violence.[131]

TBI may be underdiagnosed in children and young people with identified neurodevelopmental conditions. Chitsabesan et al. (2015) found that 29% of young people who had carried out serious violence with moderate-severe TBI also had ADHD and 36% had speech and language impairments.[132] Additionally, research from Taiwan suggests that children who have a TBI before the age of three are significantly more likely to have ADHD, autism, or developmental delay in later childhood.[133]

The co-occurrence of these needs can compound difficulties and impact how children and young people can be effectively supported.[134]   

Practitioner insight in Devon suggests that over half of young people in court in the last 18 months, assessed by a Speech, Language and Communication Therapist, are believed to have experienced TBI. Furthermore, Devon and Cornwall Police have adopted the Brain Injury Screening Index in some areas of operation including deferred caution and charge.[135]

This evidence alongside national research demonstrates the prevalence of TBI within the cohort of individuals who commit serious violence in Devon. 

Individual needs within the adult cohort

The needs of adults in the criminal justice system are captured differently to those of young people. In previous years there was not the same level of awareness of neurodivergence, SLCN and SEND, and assessing for such needs was far less common. 

 It is suggested in the Neurodiversity in the Criminal Justice System Review of Evidence (2021), that half of those entering prison can reasonably be expected to be neurodivergent.[136]

It is widely accepted that there is underdiagnosis of neurodivergence within adult and child cohorts. In particular, females often mask symptoms and are therefore likely to be underdiagnosed.[137]

Previous SEND status does not appear to be routinely recorded for adults. Again, this is likely due to the assessment of these needs not routinely taking place, when the current adult cohort (particularly those over the age of 25), were in education.

The most comprehensive available local data evidencing the potential prevalence of SLCN or neurodivergence within the adult cohort is provided by Probation OASys assessments of criminogenic needs.[138] In addition, we understand that there may be future data opportunities as neurodivergence screening in custody is being introduced, within some centres in Devon, by using the ‘Do it’ Profiler. These processes are something to monitor and develop data sharing opportunities where possible.

When observing OASys data, ‘Thinking and Behaviour’ was found to be a prominent criminogenic need for adults in Devon sentenced for serious violence and sexual offences and managed by the Probation Service between April 2022 – March 2023. To be recorded as having a ‘Thinking and Behaviour’ need, concerns around, ‘interpersonal skills, impulsivity, temper control, problem recognition, problem solving, awareness of consequences, understanding others’ views,’[139] are considered. Although this cannot be directly linked to any need relating to SEND, SLCN or neurodivergence, there is likely crossover. Assessment scores are not diagnostic and cannot provide evidence of any specific need. 

We are aware that nationally there is a drive amongst Prisons to start to routinely assess for neurodivergence in the adult population they encounter when they enter the prison system. It is unclear how far this practice has been adopted in Devon.[140]

Opportunities

We understand that neurodivergence screening is going to be introduced across South West Probation and Police custody services. The College of Policing have also added educational resources for those working within forces to learn more on neurodivergence and how to provide appropriate support. It is recommended that the roll out of screening within the Police and Probation is closely observed to ensure the proper roll out and collection of data to inform a future evidence base. 

Work is also taking place across prisons in the South West. The Prison Education Service are procuring an additional learning needs screening tool for all prisoners to be delivered as part of future contracts from April 2025. Furthermore, Neurodiversity Support Managers are to be introduced to all prisons by March 2024, to lead a whole prison approach to support for Neurodiversity. The sharing of this data will be vital to understanding the picture of needs within the serious violence cohort and helping to give an evidence base to prevention work. 

Mental Health

Mental health has been identified as a prominent need in Youth Justice and adult Probation cohorts, including for those who have carried out serious violence offences.

Mental health needs, where present, are often co-located with additional needs and complexities. It is commonplace that those who offend and who have mental health conditions have had previous adversities and complexities that have had an effect on their mental health. However, mental health needs do not solely derive from environmental factors.

Mental health is complex, and it is widely accepted that wellbeing is determined by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.[141]

National data estimates that 72% of children sentenced by the courts in 2019/20, presented with mental health needs (YJB and MoJ, 2021). This cohort is likely to represent young people who have carried out the most serious and prolific offences. 

In Devon, mental health is a need identified in both youth and adult serious violence cohorts.

Devon Youth Justice Service has observed an increasing complexity in the needs of young people coming to the attention of the service, including poor mental health and emotional wellbeing (Devon YJS, 2023).

Within the YJS data from 2022-23, 23% of all serious violence offences were committed by a young person with a mental health concern, prior to the offence. This is compared to 16.5% of all other offences and 4.3% of sexual offences.[142]


Bar chart shows YJS Data relating to children with a recorded mental health concern from all cohorts across the two years.

Findings from Probation data indicate that 69% of the serious violence cohort suffered from issues around their Emotional Wellbeing. This is a broad assessment category but considers both current and past mental health issues. This need seemed to be particularly prevalent in the female cohort where 83% of serious violence offences committed by women were linked to an Emotional Wellbeing concern.

Mental health as a need is also being seen in Police data. As stated in section one, the total number of mental health related serious violence crimes have increased by 66% from year ending October 2019 to year ending October 2022. It is likely that the flag is applied inconsistently, however it should be applied when a person involved within a crime is a victim or suspect and believed to be suffering with a mental health concern.

Substance misuse

In Devon, a proportion of both adults and children who have committed serious violence offences experience a substance addiction or substance misuse.

Substance misuse can occur as a result of ACEs, poor mental health or hardships that both adults and children go through. For example, in 2022/23, 36% of young people (aged 14-19) engaged in structured activity with Y SMART (the service that supports young people vulnerable to substance misuse in Devon), reported having experienced domestic abuse as victims in their lifetime.[143] This evidence also demonstrates the compounding nature of potential drivers of violence.

According to The Children’s Commissioner (2021), there is a clear link between drug misuse, criminal exploitation, and serious violence.

The Devon Drug and Alcohol Needs Assessment (Public Health Devon, 2022) highlights that there is a significant issue of unmet need in people misusing substances. It is noted within the assessment that organisations within Devon such as children and family, youth justice, health, and mental health services have lower referral figures than the national average.

Within YJS data from April 2021-March 2023, substance misuse is higher in the Serious Violence cohort than any other cohort, this is true of both years but starker in 21-22. 

  • In 2021-22, 39.5% of all serious violence offences were committed by a young person with a Substance Misuse concern, 15.2% of ‘all other offences’ and 2.7% of Sexual Offences 
  • In 2022-23 23% of serious violence offences, 20% of ‘all other offences’ and 4.3% of Sexual Offences were committed by a young person with a Substance Misuse concern.


Bar chart shows YJS Data relating to children with a recorded substance misuse concern from all cohorts across the two years.

There is also a high level of substance misuse need in justice-involved adults. Nationally, an estimated 1/3 of people in prison have a serious drug addiction and 38% of people surveyed in prison believed their drinking was a big problem.[144]

When assessing local Probation data for April 2022 to March 2023, 34% of serious violence offences that were committed by a female were attached to a drug need and 59% of offences by females were attached to an alcohol need. In the male serious violence cohort, 40% of offences by men were attached to a drug need, and 39% to an alcohol need. ​

It should be noted that when observing men who had committed sexual offences, there was a much lower proportion of reported substance misuse with only 14% of offences being linked to a drug or alcohol need.

Gaps and further questions

  • Closely observe potential data coming from the review of Adolescent Safety Framework to understand more around contextual harms young people are exposed to, that may drive violence.
  • Review information from Peer Conferences to gauge contextual harm concerns.
  • Understand the role of the internet and social media in influencing perceptions of violence.
  • Address gaps in recording Speech Language and Communication Needs with partners.
  • Develop a more comprehensive understanding of adult needs, particularly around previous childhood trauma as well as individual drivers.
  • Develop an understanding of why there is less prevalence of currently assessed needs within the sexual offence’s cohort. Perhaps a deep dive into those who commit these kinds of offences is required.
  • Collect data on compounding needs and work to understand which needs may combine to influence vulnerability to violence.

Concluding thoughts and recommendations

Serious violence amongst the adult and youth cohort in Devon is increasing. Concern should be paid to the increasing and violent nature of the drug trade in Devon and its potential impact on young children. It is also important to note the increase in Rape offences and that crimes within the category of ‘most serious’ Violence with Injury offences are significantly increasing. This is a trend that requires a particular focus due to the level of physical and psychological harm resulting from this severe kind of violence.

Analysis undertaken through this needs assessment shows there are cohorts of children, young people, and adults who, due to a range of often intersecting and compounding experiences, factors and needs, may have greater vulnerability to carrying out serious violence. These groups could benefit from further focus and support to build wellbeing, resilience, and opportunity and in doing so prevent and reduce involvement in serious violence.

Cohorts where vulnerability to being involved in violence appears to be most heightened include those with experience of care; those not engaged in education, employment or training; those with SEND and/or neurodivergent needs, especially where these are not being supported; children impacted by parental or caregiver needs and/or domestic harm; children impacted by familial imprisonment; and adults with multiple and compounding disadvantages.

Addressing and responding to these needs and drivers requires a holistic approach that takes account of the complexity of people’s needs and the influences they experience from family, peers, their community, and society, including the online sphere. The intersection of these influences and the unique ways in which they are experienced is crucial; taking a person-centred approach is key, so too is taking account of protected characteristics and the intersecting identities and experiences that can shape vulnerability and resilience to harm.

A public health approach should be central to our response. This includes a focus on prevention (at primary, secondary and tertiary levels) and addressing root causes. It also involves taking a life course approach. As we have explained, needs and drivers rarely operate in isolation of one another and can create vulnerability to violence throughout the life cycle. Targeted support within early years through to adulthood is required, as is a joined-up approach across services, commissioning, and systems. 

Trauma and shame are factors that interweave amongst many of the needs and drivers considered within the needs assessment and are likely to be a common experience for many of the groups we have discussed. The impacts of trauma can, as explored, be lifelong and intergenerational. Shame, strongly interlinked with the experience of trauma, is additionally important in shaping peoples’ actions and responses. Embedding a trauma informed and shame sensitive approach throughout our work is therefore crucial.   

Going forward, our responses should centre on identifying the people, places, and contexts where there is greatest vulnerability, and also opportunity for change. This should involve responding where risk is most heightened; addressing the cyclical nature of interpersonal harms within families and relationships; preventing and reducing vulnerability at the earliest possible opportunity; and challenging the harmful behaviours and norms driving violence within wider populations, including young person peer to peer harms. 

Finally, it should be stated that the picture of serious violence in Devon is likely to evolve. We have viewed this needs assessment as an iterative process, understanding is likely to change as new data becomes available and further research takes place. It is important that an approach of continued learning and openness to new information is followed to ensure accuracy of information that will eventually go on to inform strategic decision making and planning.

Appendix

Offences in scope of Serious Violence

Offences Groups in scope within Police Data

Devon and Cornwall Police do not have a formal definition of serious violence. There is not a known list of offences that the force considers to be serious violence offences. Therefore, to quantitively measure serious violence, the Safer Devon Partnership decided to use their definition of serious violence to select offence groups that best measure serious violence.

It is important to note that some offence groups may capture specific offences that are not within scope of the serious violence definition. Similarly, offences within offence groups removed for the purpose of the assessment may fit the definition of serious violence, however, have been omitted from scope.

Serious Violence Offence Groups – in scope:

  • Homicide
  • Violence with Injury
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Trafficking of Drugs
  • Possession of Weapons
  • Rape
  • Other Sexual Offences
  • Stalking and Harassment

Non-Serious Violence Offence Groups – not in scope:

  • Possession of Drugs
  • Theft from the Person
  • Other Offences
  • Vehicle Offences
  • Bicycle Theft
  • Burglary Dwelling
  • Criminal Damage
  • Burglary Non Dwelling
  • Public Order Offences
  • All Other Theft Offences
  • Shoplifting
  • Violence without Injury
  • Death or Serious Injury Caused by Unlawful Driving

The ‘most serious’ violence in Policing documents does not align to the ‘most serious’ violence offences referred to in this document.

In this document ‘most serious’ Violence with Injury offences is limited to the following offence descriptions;

  • GBH with and without intent
  • Section 18 Wounding with Intent
  • Attempt to cause GBH
  • Attempt Murder, Child Destruction
  • Administer poison with intent to GBH
  • Racially or religiously aggravated GBH
  • Throw Corrosive fluid to do GBH
  • Cause explosion with intent to GBH
  • Owner/person in charge of a dangerous dog causing GBH
  • Section 18 wounding with intent to resist arrest
  • Intentional Strangulation
  • Intentional suffocation

Offence Descriptions in scope within Probation Data

Probation data does not have a formal serious violence definition however it does categorise certain offences as serious violence.

Offence categories of Sexual (against child), Sexual (not against child) and Violence as recorded in National Delius records have been used to determine serious violent crime. Some offences will automatically be assumed to be serious violence, however some lower-level offences are based on a case by case basis, where the facts are serious in nature.

Serious Violence offences in scope within Probation data:

Serious Violence

  • Malicious wounding and other like offences (misdemeanours)
  • Common and other types of assault
  • Wounding and other acts endangering life
  • Assault on Police Officer
  • Manslaughter (Category)
  • Firearms offences
  • Aggravated burglary in a dwelling (including attempts)
  • Threats, conspiracy, or incitement to murder
  • Violence
  • Kidnapping (Category)
  • Cruelty to or neglect of children (Summary)
  • Threaten a person with an offensive weapon / bladed article /corrosive substance in private place
  • Offences in relation to dogs
  • Perverting the course of justice (Category)

Sexual Violence (against adult or child)

  • Obscene publications etc and protected sexual material
  • Sexual activity (male and female) – including with a child under 16
  • Abuse of child through prostitution & pornography
  • Sexual assault on a female
  • Rape
  • Sexual activity (male and female) – including with a child under 13
  • Sexual assault on a male
  • Miscellaneous Sexual Offences (Category)
  • Sexual assault on a male
  • Familial sexual offences (incest)

Offence Groups not in scope, within Probation Data.

  • Other offence
  • Drink driving
  • Public order
  • Other motoring
  • Theft (Non-motor)
  • Drug possession/supply
  • Drug import/export/production
  • Criminal damage
  • Burglary (Other)
  • Fraud and forgery
  • Taking and driving away and related offences
  • Burglary (Domestic)
  • Absconding or bail offences
  • Handling stolen goods
  • Robbery

Offence Descriptions in scope within Youth Justice Service Data

YJS data throughout this document includes Serious Violence offences, Sexual offences and Any Other Offences. Serious Violence as defined by the YJS as ‘any drug, robbery or violence against the person offence that has a gravity score of five or more’.

Serious violence

  • Wound / inflict grievous bodily harm without intent
  • Robbery
  • Attempt murder – victim aged 1 year or over 8
  • Conspire to commit robbery 6
  • Concerned in supply of drugs
  • Possess with intent to supply a controlled drug of Class A
  • Conspire to supply a class A
  • Possess with intent to supply a controlled drug of Class A
  • Threats to kill
  • Causing danger to road user
  • Wounding with intent
  • GBH with intent
  • Assault with intent to commit robbery
  • Attempt to wound / cause grievous bodily harm without intent
  • Concerned in production of methylamphetamine a class A
  • Detain a child so as to keep him / her from a person having lawful control
  • Possess imitation firearm
  • Attempt to cause grievous bodily harm with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Sexual violence

  • Engage in penetrative sexual activity with a girl 13 to 15
  • Sexual assault on a female
  • Engage in sexual communication with a child
  • Offender under 18 cause a child 13 to 15 to watch a sexual act
  • Offender under 18 cause a child 13 to 15 to watch a sexual act
  • Assault a girl under 13 by touching
  • Possess, distribute OR take indecent photograph / pseudo-photograph of a child
  • Permit taking of indecent photo / pseudo-photograph of a child
  • Rape a girl aged 13 / 14 / 15, Rape a girl under 13
  • Offender under 18 engage in non-penetrative sexual activity with a girl under 13
  • Voyeurism – recording a private act
  • Disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress
  • Offender under 18 engage in non-penetrative sexual activity with a girl 13 to 15 – SOA 200
  • Assault a boy under 13 by touching

Offences not in scope in YJS Data

  • Drugs (gravity score under 5) e.g. Possess Class C (2)
  • Non-Domestic Burglary
  • Violence Against the Person Assault by beating (3)
  • Public Order Use threatening / abusive / insulting words / behaviour to cause harassment / alarm / distress (2)
  • Other Send letter / communication / article conveying indecent / offensive message (2)
  • Vehicle Theft/Unauthorised Taking Theft from a motor vehicle (3)
  • Breach of Bail
  • Racially Aggravated Racially / religiously aggravated assault occasioning actual bodily harm (3)
  • Criminal Damage Criminal damage to property valued under £5000 (2)
  • Arson
  • Theft And Handling Stolen Goods e.g. Theft from a shop 3
  • Breach of Statutory Duty e.g. Breach of a referral order 4
  • Motoring Offences e.g. Ride a motor cycle on a road and fail to wear protective headgear 2
  • Fraud and Forgery e.g. Possess / control article for use in fraud – Fraud Act 2006 3
  • Domestic Burglary
  • Death or Injury By Dangerous Driving e.g. Cause serious injury by dangerous driving 5

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Traumatic Brain Injury

H Chang, et al, (2018), ‘Traumatic Brain Injury in early childhood and risk of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder: a nationwide longitudinal study’, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 79(6). Cited in: H Kent, and H Williams, Manchester: HMIP, (2021), ‘Traumatic Brain Injury.’ Available at HMIP Academic Insights 2021/09: Traumatic Brain Injury. 

H Kent, et al, (2022), ‘Poor parental supervision associated with traumatic brain injury and reactive aggression in young offenders’, Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation37(2), 65-70.

H Kent, and H Williams, Manchester: HMIP, (2021), ‘Traumatic Brain Injury.’ Available at HMIP Academic Insights 2021/09: Traumatic Brain Injury. 

P Chitsabesan, (2015), ‘Traumatic Brain Injury in juvenile offenders: findings from the comprehensive health assessment tool survey and the development of a specialist linkworker service.’ Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation 30(2), 106-115.

T McMillan, et al, (2021), ‘Associations between significant head injury and persisting disability and violent crime in women in prison in Scotland, UK: a cross-sectional study’, The Lancet Psychiatry, 8(6), 512-520.

Education

Department of Education, ‘Education, children’s social care and offending: local authority level dashboard.’ Available athttps://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/education-children-s-social-care-and-offending-local-authority-level-dashboard/data-guidance

Department for Education, (2023b), Suspensions and permanent exclusions in England.’Available at Summer term 2021/22 Permanent exclusions and suspensions in England.

M Fuller, J McNally, Department for Education, (2023a), ‘Education, children’s social care and offending: multi-level modelling.’ Available at Education, children’s social care and offending: multi-level modelling (publishing.service.gov.uk).

ONS, (2023), The links between young people being imprisoned, pupil background and school quality.’ Available at The links between young people being imprisoned, pupil background and school quality.

Poverty and deprivation

K Cooper and K Stewart, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, (October 2013), ‘Does money affect children’s outcomes?’ Available at Does money affect children’s outcomes? | JRF.

R Grimshaw, and M Ford, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, (2018), ‘Young people, violence and knives – revisiting the evidence and policy discussions.’ Available at https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/young-people-violence-and-knives-revisiting-evidence-and-policy-discussions.

UNESCO, (2017), ‘Let’s decide how to measure school violence.’ Available at Let’s decide how to measure school violence. Policy Paper 29.  

Mental Health

Mental Health Foundation, ‘Factors that affect mental health.’ Available at: Factors that affect mental health | Mental Health Foundation AND National Institute of Mental Health, ‘Looking at My Genes: WHAT CAN THEY TELL ME ABOUT MY MENTAL HEALTH?’ Available at Looking at My Genes: What Can They Tell Me About My Mental Health? (nih.gov).

References

[1] Serious Violence offences include those in following offence groups within Police data ‘Homicide, Violence with Injury, Robbery, Arson, Trafficking of Drugs, Possession of Weapons, Rape, Other Sexual Offences and Stalking and Harassment.’

[2] This is particularly true of sexually violent offences that we know from work undertaken within the Inter Gender Based Violence Needs Assessment, are under reported.

[3] Serious violence includes following offences; Homicide, Violence with Injury, Robbery, Arson, Trafficking of Drugs, Possession of Weapons, Rape, Other Sexual Offences and Stalking and Harassment.’

[4] It should be noted that Possession of Weapons offences are relatively low and have risen from 364 offences in Nov 18-Oct 19 to 543 in Nov 21 – Oct 22.

[5] Due to a change in recording, mental health flag cannot be assessed ‘pre covid.’

[6] Please note, 10% of victims within the 4 years of data do not have a recorded sex.

[7] Note that offender data is limited and provided in only 13% of crimes.

[8] This repeat victimisation only applies to the serious violence data set between November 2018 – October 2022. There may be occasions where a victim has been a repeat victim of a less serious offence or before November 2018. 

[9] Safer Devon, Devon County Council (2023), ‘Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse Needs Assessment.’Available atInterpersonal & Gender-based Violence & Abuse – Safer Devon

[10] South West Probation Data April 2022-March 2023.’

[11] ‘Most serious’ violence offences are as follows, GBH with and without intent, Section 18 Wounding with Intent, Attempt to cause GBH, Intentional Strangulation, Attempt Murder, Child Destruction, Administer poison with intent to GBH, Throw Corrosive fluid to do GBH, Cause explosion with intent to GBH, Racially or religiously aggravated GBH, Intentional suffocation, Owner/person in charge of a dangerous dog causing GBH and Section 18 wounding with intent to resist arrest.

[12] Offences that make up ‘more serious violence’ in Probation data for violent offences committed by males are as follows; Aggravated burglary in a dwelling (including attempts), Firearms offences, Assault on Police Officer, Kidnapping (Category), Manslaughter (Category), Offences in relation to dogs, Threaten a person with an offensive weapon / bladed article /corrosive substance in private place, Threats, conspiracy, or incitement to murder, Violence and Wounding and other acts endangering life.

[13] United Nations, (January 2023), ‘Systemic racism within UK criminal justice system a serious concern: UN human rights experts.’ Available at Systemic racism within UK criminal justice system a serious concern: UN human rights experts | UN News.

[14] United Kingdom Census 2021

[15] S Khan-Ruf, (2017), Hope not Hate, ‘Criminal justice system “racial bias” exposed.’ Available athttps://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/09/11/criminal-justice-system-racial-bias-exposed/.

[16] The Conversation, (2021), ‘Structural racism: what it is and how it works.’ Available at Structural racism: what it is and how it works (theconversation.com)

[17] Devon County Council (2019/20), ‘Service Data.’ Available at Service Data – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (devon.gov.uk)

[18] Adults as people over 18.

[19] Home Office, (2023), ‘Serious violence duty,’ Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/serious-violence-duty.

[20] DYS Space (2023a), Knife crime consultation report.

[21] According to Police data, drug ‘flagged’ crimes. Flags used inconsistently.

[22] Devon and Cornwall Police, (2023), Force Drugs Market Profile.

[23] This is unsurprising. Urban town and city centre areas often have a lower rate of population but high number of crimes.

[24] Office of National Statistics, Crime in England and Wales: year ending June 2023. Available at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/yearendingjune2023.

[25] Youth Justice System data, April 2021- March 2023 and Probation Data April 2022 – March 2023.

[26] Home Office, ‘Serious violence duty,’ Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/serious-violence-duty, Chapter 1. Noted that specific areas including ‘public space youth violence’, weapons-related violence and drug related criminal activities, and the inclusion of domestic abuse, sexual violence and exploitation is encouraged.

[27] For context there were over 18,000 lower level Actual Bodily Harm offences across the four years.

[28] Please note that this data is not directly comparable to that of Police data.

[29] Devon and Cornwall Police, (2023), Homicide Review.

[30] P Gray, H Smithson, and D Jump, (2023), Manchester Metropolitan University, ‘Serious youth violence and its relationship with adverse childhood experiences.Available at Serious Youth Violence Report.pdf (mmu.ac.uk)

[31] Needs assessed as follows; Accommodation, Education, Relationships, Lifestyle, Drugs, Alcohol, Thinking and Behaviour, Attitudes, Financial and Emotional Wellbeing.

[32] Safer Devon Partnership, (2023), Interpersonal and Gender-Based Violence and Abuse Needs Assessment, Section 6.4.

[33] Home Office (2023), Modern slavery: National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify statistics UK, end of year summary 2022.

[34] Safer Devon, Devon County Council (2023), Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse Needs Assessment. Section 6.4 ‘Victims of Sexual Exploitation.’

[35] Prison Reform Trust, (2023b), ‘Prison: the facts – Summer 2023.’ Available at Prison: the facts. Bromley Briefing summer 2023.

[36] HM Inspectorate of Probation, Manchester: HMIP, (2023a),2022 Annual Report: inspections of youth offending services.’ Available at  2022 Annual report: inspections of youth offending services.

[37] HMPPS, ‘Safety in Custody Statistics, England and Wales: Deaths in Prison Custody to March 2023. Assaults and Self-harm to December 2022 .’ Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/64492499529eda00123b0522/safety-in-custody-q4-2022.pdf#:~:text=The%20rate%20of%20assault%20incidents%20per%201%2C000%20prisoners,a%20greater%20increase%20in%20the%20latest%2012%20months.

[38] Devon and Cornwall Police, 2023, Force Drugs Market Profile.

[39] Safer Devon, Devon County Council (2023), Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse Needs Assessment, Section 6.4 ‘Victims of Sexual Exploitation.’

[40] This is because to be recorded as an offender in police data requires a person to have received a criminal justice outcome, which is a high threshold.

[41] Modern Slavery Act 2015, Modern Slavery Act 2015 (legislation.gov.uk)

[42] Devon and Cornwall Police, Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime Unit, (November 2023), ‘Overview of Live Modern Slavery Investigations in UK Policing.’ This is a summary of live police investigations being undertaken by Police/ROCU’s across the UK, including PSNI and Police Scotland. The report is based on PND DDE data downloaded on 03/11/2023. Please note that not all Police forces engage with this process, GMP and the MET contribute data separately to PND.

[43] HM Inspectorate of Probation, (2023a),2022 Annual Report: inspections of youth offending services.’ Manchester: HMIP.Available at  2022 Annual report: inspections of youth offending services.

[44] As above (HMPPS).

[45] Devon and Cornwall Police, (2022), Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Local Profile.

[46] Data is based on incidents reported. Incidents may occur that are not reported. Practitioners have implied the potential under reporting of sexism and sexual harassment within these figures.

[47] UNESCO, (2017), Let’s decide how to measure school violence. Policy Paper 29.

[48] B Moss, (2018), The Conversation, ‘How school expulsions could be fuelling the rise in youth violence.’ Available at ‘How school expulsions could be fuelling the rise in youth violence’

[49] If this needs assessment is read in conjunction with the Devon Interpersonal and Gender-based Needs Assessment, the peer-to-peer violence analysis will differ. This is because the analysis covers differing dates, offence groups and age ranges. There cannot be a comparison between the two sets of analysis.

[50] Police.UK, ‘What is stalking and harassment?’ Available at: https://www.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/sh/stalking-harassment/what-is-stalking-harassment.

[51] Note this profile related to all offences, not just those in scope of serious violence for this needs assessment.

[52] Youth Endowment Fund, (November 2023), ‘Children, violence and vulnerability.’ Available at: *YEF_Children_violence_and_vulnerability_2023_FINAL.pdf (youthendowmentfund.org.uk)

[53] As above (YEF November 2023).

[54] Children’s Commissioner, (2023), ‘Evidence on pornography’s influence on harmful sexual behaviour among children.’ Available at Evidence on pornography’s influence on harmful sexual behaviour among children.

[55] YEF November 2023

[56] Possession of weapons offences have increased by 49%, however offences are relatively small. 364 in 18/19 to 543 offences in 21/22.

[57] GOV.UK, ‘Statistics on firearm and Shotgun certificates, England and Wales: April 2022 to March 2023, GOV.UK.’ Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statistics-on-firearm-and-shotgun-certificates-england-and-wales-april-2022-to-march-2023/statistics-on-firearm-and-shotgun-certificates-england-and-wales-april-2022-to-march-2023.

[58] DYS Space, (2023a), Knife crime consultation report.

[59] All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime, Redthread and Barnardo’s (2019), There’s no protection on the streets, none.” Young people’s perspectives on knife crime. AND Gray, P., Smithson, H. and Jump, D. (2021), ‘HM Inspectorate of Probation Academic Insights 2021/13: Serious youth violence and its relationship with adverse childhood experiences. Manchester: HMIP.

[60] Safer Me Assessments are the primary tool used to identify and assess exploitation risk within Children’s Social Care

[61] It should be noted that the serious violence cohort in both years, was low in relation to the total cohort of children within the YJS. In 21/22 there were 38 serious violence offences committed by children, in 22/23 this figure was at 52. Percentage figures should be read with this in mind.

[62] Commission on Young Lives (November 2022), ‘Hidden in Plain Sight. A national plan of action to support vulnerable teenagers to succeed and to protect them from adversity, exploitation, and harm.’ Available at COYL-FINAL-REPORT-FINAL-VERSION.pdf (thecommissiononyounglives.co.uk).

[63] Safer Somerset Partnership (2021), Social media and experiences of cultural norms, violence and exploitation in Somerset.

[64] Commission on Young Lives (November 2022), ‘Hidden in Plain Sight. A national plan of action to support vulnerable teenagers to succeed and to protect them from adversity, exploitation, and harm.’ Available at COYL-FINAL-REPORT-FINAL-VERSION.pdf (thecommissiononyounglives.co.uk).

[65] V Gadenne and P Olajide, Crest (2023), ‘Under the influence: how harmful is social media to children and young people?’Available at Under the influence: how harmful is social media to children and young people?.

[66] Safer Devon Partnership, (2021), Devon Profile for Intra and Extra Familial Youth Violence.

[67] World Health Organisation (no date), The VPA Approach. Available at: Violence Prevention Alliance Approach (who.int).

[68] Bellis, M. et al. (2014), Adverse childhood experiences: retrospective study to determine their impact on adult health behaviours and health outcomes in a UK population’, Journal of Public Health, 36(1), 81-91.; Bellis, M. et al. (2014b), ‘National household survey of adverse childhood experiences and their relationship with resilience to health-harming behaviours in England’,BMC Medicine, 12(72).

[69] Safer Devon Partnership, (2021), Devon Profile for Intra and Extra Familial Youth Violence.

[70] Bellis, M. et al. (2014), Adverse childhood experiences: retrospective study to determine their impact on adult health behaviours and health outcomes in a UK population’, Journal of Public Health, 36(1), 81-91.

[71] Bellis, M. et al. (2014), Adverse childhood experiences: retrospective study to determine their impact on adult health behaviours and health outcomes in a UK population’, Journal of Public Health, 36(1), 81-91.

[72] Bellis, M. et al. (2014), Adverse childhood experiences: retrospective study to determine their impact on adult health behaviours and health outcomes in a UK population’, Journal of Public Health, 36(1), 81-91.

[73] Bellis, M. et al. (2014), Adverse childhood experiences: retrospective study to determine their impact on adult health behaviours and health outcomes in a UK population’, Journal of Public Health, 36(1), 81-91.

[74] This is a small grouping of what research has identified to be a significant range of adverse and traumatic childhood experiences covering familial, community and societal adversities. See: Early Intervention Foundation (2020), Adverse childhood experiences: what we know, what we don’t know, and what should happen next. EIF.

[75] Dr K Asmussen, Dr F Fischer, E Drayton and T McBride, Early Intervention Foundation, (2020), ‘Adverse childhood experiences: What we know, what we don’t know, and what should happen next.’ Available at Adverse childhood experiences: what we know, what we don’t know, and what should happen next.

[76] Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, New York: UN. (no date), ‘Violence Prevention must start in early childhood.’ Available at Violence prevention must start in early childhood.

[77] Dr K Asmussen, Dr F Fischer, E Drayton and T McBride, Early Intervention Foundation, (2020), ‘Adverse childhood experiences: What we know, what we don’t know, and what should happen next.’ Available at Adverse childhood experiences: what we know, what we don’t know, and what should happen next.

[78] As above.

[79] P Gray, H Smithson, and D Jump, (2021), HM Inspectorate of Probation Academic Insights 2021/13: Serious youth violence and its relationship with adverse childhood experiences. Manchester: HMIP.; Ministry of Justice and Department for Business Innovation and Skills (2014), Parenting and relationship support programmes for offenders and their families. London: Policis.

[80] P Gray, H Smithson, and D Jump, Manchester Metropolitan University, (2023), ‘Serious youth violence and its relationship with adverse childhood experiences.Available at Serious Youth Violence Report.pdf (mmu.ac.uk).

[81] Safer Devon Partnership, (2023), Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse Needs Assessment, Section 6.2.Based on information from community behaviour change programs delivered in Devon in 2021/22.

[82] Turning Corners was an early intervention programme operating in South Devon for young people vulnerable to being drawn into contextual peer harms, crime, exploitation and anti-social behaviour.

[83] Local Government Association, London: LGA, (2018),The relationship between family violence and youth offending.’ Available at The relationship between family violence and youth offending.

[84] Safer Devon Partnership, (2021), Devon Profile for Intra and Extra Familial Youth Violence.

[85] S Kincaid and M Roberts, Crest (2019), ‘Children of prisoners: fixing a broken system.’ Available at Children of prisoners: fixing a broken system.

[86] HM Inspectorate of Probation, (2021a), ‘Family relationships.’ Available at: Family relationships (justiceinspectorates.gov.uk).

[87] J Pitman, J Hull, Crest (2021a), Counting the Cost of Maternal Imprisonment.’ Available at Counting the cost of maternal imprisonment.

[88] S Kenny, (March 2022), ‘The Golden Thread: Putting family at the heart of the criminal justice system, The Centre for Social Justice.’ Available at The Golden Thread: Putting family at the heart of the criminal justice system – The Centre for Social Justice.

[89] S Besemer and L Bui, (2019), ‘Intergenerational Transmission of Criminal Behaviour.’ In: Hutton, M., Moran, D. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Prison and the Family, Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. Available at https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-12744-2_22.

[90] The Shame Lab. Available at The Shame Lab | About.

[91] L Dolezal, and M Gibson, (2022), ‘Beyond a trauma-informed approach and towards shame-sensitive practice’, Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 9, 214.

[92] As above.

[93] L Dolezal, (no date), ‘Shame and Violence: Considering shame and shame-sensitive practice in policing.’ Available at: Shame-and-Violence.pdf (shameandmedicine.org).

[94] Dr A M Day, HM Inspectorate of Probation, Academic Insights 2021/11, ‘Experiences and pathways of children in care in the youth justice system.’ Available at Experiences and pathways of children in care in the youth justice system (justiceinspectorates.gov.uk).

[95] Devon Youth Justice Plan 2023.

[96] J Calouri, Dr M Corlett, J Stott, Crest (2020a),County Lines and Looked After Children.’ Available at County lines and looked after children.

[97] Ministry of Justice, (2012), ‘Prisoners’ childhood and family backgrounds: Results from the Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction (SPCR) longitudinal cohort study of prisoners.’

[98] Dr A M Day, HM Inspectorate of Probation, Academic Insights 2021/11, ‘Experiences and pathways of children in care in the youth justice system.’ Available at Experiences and pathways of children in care in the youth justice system (justiceinspectorates.gov.uk).

[99] Alliance for Youth Justice (2023), Young people in transition in the criminal justice system: evidence review. AJS.  AND HM Inspectorate of Probation (2023a), 2022 Annual report: inspections of youth offending services. Manchester: HMIP.

[100] Devon Youth Council (2023a), Youth Voice Saturday: Life transitions.

[101] Kirby, Manchester: HMIP, (2021), Neurodiversity – a whole-child approach for youth justice.’ Available at  HMIP Academic Insights 2021/08: Neurodiversity – a whole-child approach for youth justice.

[102] Department of Education, ‘Education, children’s social care and offending: local authority level dashboard.’ Available athttps://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/education-children-s-social-care-and-offending-local-authority-level-dashboard/data-guidance. Education used National Pupil Database and PNC to collect data.It covers cohorts of children who finished key stage 2 (KS2) in 2007/08 – 2012/13, and were aged 10 at the start of these academic years. Therefore, this cohort has a key stage 4 (KS4) academic year of 2012/13 – 2017/18.

[103] M Fuller, J McNally, Department for Education, (2023a), ‘Education, children’s social care and offending: multi-level modelling.’ Available at Education, children’s social care and offending: multi-level modelling (publishing.service.gov.uk).

[104] ONS, (2023), The links between young people being imprisoned, pupil background and school quality.’ Available at The links between young people being imprisoned, pupil background and school quality.

[105] UNESCO, (2017), ‘Let’s decide how to measure school violence.’ Available at Let’s decide how to measure school violence. Policy Paper 29.  

[106]  R Grimshaw, and M Ford, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, (2018), ‘Young people, violence and knives – revisiting the evidence and policy discussions.’ Available at https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/young-people-violence-and-knives-revisiting-evidence-and-policy-discussions.

[107] J W Coid, et al, (2016), London: NIHR, ‘Improving risk management for violence in mental health services: a multimethods approach.’

[108] Devon Youth Justice Service, (2023), Devon Youth Justice Plan.

[109] K Cooper and K Stewart, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, (October 2013), ‘Does money affect children’s outcomes?’ Available at Does money affect children’s outcomes? | JRF.

[110] GOV.UK, (2014), SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

[111] Torbay Council, ‘Neurodiversity: Torbay’s Guide to the Graduated Response for Inclusion.’ Available at Neurodiversity – Torbay Council

[112] Devon County Council, ‘Devon’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Local Offer: Speech, language and communication needs.’ Available at Speech, language and communication needs – Education and Families (devon.gov.uk).

[113] Kirby, Manchester: HMIP, (2021), Neurodiversity – a whole-child approach for youth justice.’ Available at  HMIP Academic Insights 2021/08: Neurodiversity – a whole-child approach for youth justice.

[114] SEN in YJS data covers, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Hearing Impairment, Moderate Learning Difficulties, Multi-Sensory Impairment + Other Difficulties/Disabilities, Physical Disabilities, SEN support but no specialist assessment of type of need, Social, Emotional and Mental Health, Specific Learning Difficulty and Speech, Language and Communication Needs.

[115] A Hollo, J H Wehby, and R M Oliver, (2014), Unidentified Language Deficits in Children with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: A MetaAnalysis. Exceptional Children, 80(2), 169-186.

[116] Kirby, Manchester: HMIP, (2021), Neurodiversity – a whole-child approach for youth justice.’ Available at  HMIP Academic Insights 2021/08: Neurodiversity – a whole-child approach for youth justice.

[117] Kirby, Manchester: HMIP, (2021), Neurodiversity – a whole-child approach for youth justice.’ Available at  HMIP Academic Insights 2021/08: Neurodiversity – a whole-child approach for youth justice.

[118] Department for Education, (2023b), ‘Suspensions and permanent exclusions in England.’Available at Summer term 2021/22 Permanent exclusions and suspensions in England.

[119] Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) can be considered within the SLCN umbrella, whereby SLCN needs meet the criteria for a specific DLD diagnosis.

[120] M Winstanley, Ph. D. Thesis. University of Manchester, (2018), Young offenders and restorative justice: language abilities, rates of recidivism and severity of crime.

[121] Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, PSC0051 – Vulnerable Children. Available at RCSLT written report to Parliament – vulnerable children.

[122] K Bryan, et al. (2015), ‘Language difficulties and criminal justice: the need for earlier identification’, International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 50(6), 763-777.

[123] As above.

[124] G Lindsay, J E Dockrell and S Strand, 2007, ‘Longitudinal patterns of behaviour problems in children with specific speech and language difficulties: Child and contextual factors.’ British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 811-828. Found in, K Bryan, Language difficulties and criminal justice: the need for earlier identification, Available at Language Difficulties and Criminal Justice: the need for earlier identification (shu.ac.uk).

[125] D Quinton, A Pickles, S Maughan and M Rutter, 1993, ‘Partners, peers and pathways: Assortative pairing and continuities in conduct disorder.’ Development and Psychopathology, 5, 763-783. Found in K Bryan Language difficulties and criminal justice: the need for earlier identification. Available at Language Difficulties and Criminal Justice: the need for earlier identification (shu.ac.uk).

[126] J A G Lum, M Powell, and P C Snow, (2018), The influence of maltreatment history and out-of-home-care on children’s language and social skills. Child Abuse & Neglect, 76, 65–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.10.008. Sylvestre, A., Bussières, E. and Bouchard, C. (2015). Language Problems Among Abused and Neglected Children: A Meta-Analytic Review. Child Maltreatment21(1):47-58. Lum, J. A. G., Powell, M., & Snow, P. C. (2018). The influence of maltreatment history and out-of-home-care on children’s language and social skills. Child Abuse & Neglect, 76, 65–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.10.00.

[127] A Danese, (2020), ‘Annual Research Review: Rethinking childhood trauma-new research directions for measurement, study design and analytical strategies.’ Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 61(3), 236–250. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13160.

[128] Kirby, Manchester: HMIP, (2021), Neurodiversity – a whole-child approach for youth justice.’ Available at  HMIP Academic Insights 2021/08: Neurodiversity – a whole-child approach for youth justice.; L Dinkler et al, (2017), ‘Maltreatment-associated neurodevelopmental disorders: a co-twin control analysis’, The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58:6, 691-701.

[129] H Kent, and H Williams, Manchester: HMIP, (2021), ‘Traumatic Brain Injury.’ Available at HMIP Academic Insights 2021/09: Traumatic Brain Injury. 

[130] H Kent, et al, (2022), ‘Poor parental supervision associated with traumatic brain injury and reactive aggression in young offenders’, Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation37(2), 65-70.(Greater severity TBI involved loss of consciousness).

[131] T McMillan, et al, (2021), ‘Associations between significant head injury and persisting disability and violent crime in women in prison in Scotland, UK: a cross-sectional study’, The Lancet Psychiatry, 8(6), 512-520.

[132] P Chitsabesan, (2015), ‘Traumatic Brain Injury in juvenile offenders: findings from the comprehensive health assessment tool survey and the development of a specialist linkworker service.’ Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation 30(2), 106-115.

[133] H Chang, et al, (2018), ‘Traumatic Brain Injury in early childhood and risk of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder: a nationwide longitudinal study’, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 79(6). Cited in: H Kent, and H Williams, Manchester: HMIP, (2021), ‘Traumatic Brain Injury.’ Available at HMIP Academic Insights 2021/09: Traumatic Brain Injury. 

[134] H Kent, and H Williams, Manchester: HMIP, (2021), ‘Traumatic Brain Injury.’ Available at HMIP Academic Insights 2021/09: Traumatic Brain Injury. 

[135] As above.

[136] Criminal Justice Joint Inspection, (2021), Neurodiversity in the criminal justice system: A review of evidence.’  Available at Neurodiversity in the criminal justice system: a review of evidence.

[137] K Saporito, (2022), ‘Why Autism Has Been Underdiagnosed in Girls and Women.’ Available at Why Autism Has Been Underdiagnosed in Girls and Women | Psychology Today United Kingdom.

[138] H Williams, et al, (2010), ‘Traumatic brain injury in a prison population: prevalence and risk for re-offending’, Brain Injury, 24(10), 1184-1188.

[139] Ministry of Justice, Identified needs of offenders in custody and the community from the Offender Assessment System, (2018). Available at oasys-needs-adhoc-stats.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk).

[140] C Hoyle, H O’Brien, Academy of Social Justice, Online Seminar – ‘Working Collaboratively to support Neurodiverse people in the Criminal Justice System.’

[141] Mental Health Foundation, ‘Factors that affect mental health.’ Available at: Factors that affect mental health | Mental Health Foundation AND National Institute of Mental Health, ‘Looking at My Genes: WHAT CAN THEY TELL ME ABOUT MY MENTAL HEALTH?’ Available at Looking at My Genes: What Can They Tell Me About My Mental Health? (nih.gov).

[142] Double counting of those children who offend will be present within these figures.

[143] Safer Devon, Devon County Council (2023), ‘Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse Needs Assessment.’ Page 15. Available atInterpersonal & Gender-based Violence & Abuse – Safer Devon

[144] Prison Reform Trust (2023a), Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, January 2023.

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