Child offenders should not face court


The Independent Commission on Youth Crime has published a new report which suggests that most allegations involving 10 to 17-year-olds should be resolved in conferences involving the alleged offender, victim, family members, police and social workers.

The report suggests this approach should reduce reoffending, improve victims' confidence and save court time and custody costs.

A system of restorative justice has already been successfully introduced to the youth justice system in Northern Ireland.

Independent groups want most child suspects dealt with by these restorative justice "conferences", where victims would help decide outcomes. They also say no child should face trial at Crown Court and that the most serious cases should be heard in less formal youth courts, even in cases involving young people charged with serious crimes such as murder, firearms and sexual offences.

The report concludes that the mainstream use of restorative justice in England and Wales, based on the youth conferencing system in Northern Ireland, would be likely to reduce reoffending, improve victims’ confidence and result in considerable savings in court time and the costs of custody.

The research, by Sally Ireland, Simon Hickson and Kathy Evans was commissioned as a contribution to the Independent Commission's work. It was conducted as a joint project between the Police Foundation and JUSTICE, the legal and human rights charity, with funding from the Nuffield Foundation.

January 2011