A NEW strategy adopted by Darlington Borough Council has halved the number of young offenders who breach their court orders.

Young offenders are often ordered by magistrates to attend appointments as part of the sentence for their crimes, but the council’s Youth Offending Service (YOS) identified that many were not sticking to the orders.

Breaching an order leads the offender back to court, putting a strain on the system and costing public money.

Darlington’s YOS was invited to tackle the problem as part of a national pilot by the Youth Justice Board.

The new strategy reduced the number of breached orders from 50 between July and December 2011, to 24 for the same period in 2012.

Elements of the new strategy include giving the offenders a colour-coded timetable instead of appointment letters, sending reminder text messages, and providing alarm clocks to help them set a routine of being up and ready for morning appointments.

Other steps include making home visits to investigate failed appointments and forging links with the probation service to help 17-year-olds with the transition from youth to adult supervision.

Cyndi Hughes, the council's cabinet member for young people praised the “excellent” work being done.

She said: “It has been really helpful to explore the issues that impact on young people and their ability and willingness to comply and engage.

“I am aware that there has been a great deal of hard work undertaken during this initiative, a great deal has been learned through the pilot which I’m proud to say is now being shared across the country with other Youth Offending Services.

“Well done to all involved.”