Almost half of youth offenders in the Vale of Glamorgan reoffend within a year, according to a Ministry of Justice report.

From October 2015 to September 2016, 77 young offenders either left custody, received a non-custodial conviction or received a caution.

Of those, 37 committed a proven re-offence within a year. Each re-offender committed an average of 4.6 offences within this period.

The 77 young offenders, aged under 18, also had 373 previous convictions between them.

Despite these figures a spokeswoman for South Wales Police said that the number of ‘first time youth offenders’ had actually dropped significantly over a 10-year period.

She said: “Figures show for the Vale of Glamorgan in 2005 there were 266 ‘first time youth offenders’ which has dropped to 43 in 2015.

“The number of youth re-offenders in the Vale of Glamorgan has also decreased considerably over the last decade from 179 youths in October 2005 to September 2006 to 37 youths in October 2015 to September 2016.

“This reflects the continuing good work by the police and all the partners in the Youth Offending Service in reducing offending and re-offending by children and young people.”

Across Wales and England, 42 per cent of juvenile offenders committed another crime within a year.

The Ministry of Justice has cautioned that, since the figures only measure offences resulting in convictions or cautions, this could be a significant underestimate of the true level of reoffending.

Youth justice practitioner on the Law Society criminal law committee, Greg Stewart, said that the way that juvenile crime is handled could be behind high youth reoffending rates.

He added: “As a result, those young people who are left still offending are the ‘kernel’ of offenders, often with complex and compound issues and serious problems at home and school.”

Mr Stewart said that budget cuts to local youth programs have also contributed to the problem.

He said: “The savings that will have been made by the reduced charging rates are not being reinvested in rehabilitating the more vulnerable repeat offenders.”

The Standing Committee for Youth Justice, a multi-member organisation with members including Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, says the harsher the punishment, the more likely under-18s are to reoffend.

Deputy chair of the committee Penelope Gibbs said: “If we want to reduce the reoffending of children we need to try and keep them out of the formal criminal justice system and out of prison.

“We instead need to address the trauma, mental health problems and behavioural difficulties which lead to them committing crime in the first place.”

Rory Geoghegan, head of criminal justice at independent think-tank the Centre for Social Justice, said: “We can make better use of the time served on a sentence by plugging young people into positive, trusted organisations.”