Restorative Youth Justice: Insights From Evaluation of the Referral Orders and Youth Offender Panel Pilots in England and Wales

Adam Crawford, University of Leeds
Tim Newburn, London School of Economics

This paper examines recent attempts to introduce elements of restorative justice into the heart of the youth justice system in England and Wales through the implementation of referral orders and youth offender panels under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. The paper will draw upon the findings of an 18 months (Home Office funded) study of the eleven pilot schemes established prior to the national roll out of the initiative in April 2002. Referral orders are a new primary sentencing disposal for 1017 year olds pleading guilty and convicted for the first time by the courts. The disposal involves referral to a youth offender panel, which brings together at least two lay members of the local community and a member of the youth offending team to facilitate a (community conference( style discussion of the harm caused and the appropriate response to it. The panel aims to agree a (contract( with the young offender to address his/her offending behaviour and to make reparation. The contract lasts for the length of the initial referral order made (between 3 and 12 months) during which time further panel meetings are held to review progress. The intentions is that the work of youth offender panels are to be governed by the principles underlying the concept of restorative justice. To encourage the restorative nature of the process a variety of other people including parents, supporters, victims and their supporters are invited to attend a panel meeting. The paper will draw upon diverse (documentary, survey, interview and observational) data collected during the fieldwork. In examining the early experiences of these new ways of working, this paper will highlight a series of questions that arise out of the tension between the participatory character of restorative justice and the managerialist nature of much contemporary youth justice in England and Wales. It will also consider the role of victims within the process and the nature of community participation and representation.

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Updated 05/20/2006