Published Tuesday, 24 July 2012
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The NI Criminal Justice Inspectorate study, published on Tuesday, has called for the government to commit to tackling the root causes of crime.
It has said current efforts are "too little, too late" as a third of young people in the care system have already been victims of domestic abuse, and many have been excluded from school and misused drugs or alcohol.
Acting chief inspector Brendan McGuigan said: "The path to the youth justice system is a well-trodden one, yet we as a society seem incapable of helping some young people to move off it.
"What is clear is that for many young people it was a case of too little, too late.
The alternative is a continued failure, as a society, for our most vulnerable children.
"All too often interventions attempt to deal with social problems that are already well-entrenched.
"This is not only ineffective in helping those young people with issues that contribute to criminal behaviour, it is also more expensive."
Inspectors found there was a lack of co-ordination in the NI justice system and Mr McGuigan said a "risk of duplication and a lack of evaluation which made it difficult to assess effectiveness and value for money".
He said ministers should decide whether to commit fully to tackling problems like domestic violence early, and those responsible for health and social care, education, criminal justice, social development and employment and learning would need to work together to deal with such issues.
"This report calls for a clear commitment to such an approach. The challenge is immense," he added.