CHILDREN as young as 12 could now be locked up while they are waiting for their case to come up in court.
Prison reformers fear that too many will be sent to secure local authority units when they really need support or fostering in the community.
The new powers came into force last Tuesday under the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, a year earlier than other measures designed to keep young offenders out of prison.
Next year bail support schemes, funded with pound;13 million from the Home Office, will give courts more options to help young offenders. The schemes will be based on best practice from four projects piloted by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders in Newcastle, Bradford, Bristol and three inner London boroughs which began earlier this week.
Chris Stanley, head of NACRO's youth crime section said the "community remands", supported by pound;850,000 from the Charities Lottery Board, were aimed at more serious young offenders.
The schemes would involve mentoring, education, preparing them for trial and "plugging them into the community".