Report calls for major change to youth justice system

06 January 2011

Young offenders facing prosecution should be dealt with by restorative community conferences – where victims are actively involved in agreeing what consequences they face for their crimes – instead of traditional youth courts, according to a report published today by the Independent Commission on Youth Crime.

The report presents an international comparison of responses to offending by children and young people and concludes that restorative justice conferences would be likely to reduce reoffending, improve victims’ confidence and result in considerable savings in court time and the costs of custody.

The report is based on research undertaken by JUSTICE, the all-party law reform and human rights organisation, and independent charity The Police Foundation for the Independent Commission on Youth Crime. The Commission is funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Sally Ireland, Director of Criminal Justice Policy at JUSTICE, said:

"Restorative conferences – which have been so successful in Northern Ireland and around the world – offer the best chance to change behaviour in young offenders and improve the confidence of victims and wider public in the youth justice system.  We believe that it is time for the government to act on the evidence and make this change as part of its intended reforms to sentencing."

Notes to editors:

The report, Time for a New Hearing: A comparative study of alternative criminal proceedings for children and young people is attached to this press release and is also available (together with its annexes) from www.youthcrimecommission.org.uk and from www.justice.org.uk. Hard copies are available on request.

The study informed the conclusions of the Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour (www.youthcrimecommission.org.uk) whose report Time for a Fresh Start was published in July 2010. The Commission called for the use of restorative justice conferences with young offenders as an alternative to prosecution and as a sentence of the youth court in all but the most serious cases.

The Government’s Green Paper on punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing was published in December seeking views on the best use of restorative justice “to prevent offending by young people and ensure they make amends”.