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Review of Youth Justice


(Caption: Victim Support attended Include Youth's recent conference to discuss the Review Team's report with stakeholders and young people)

The Department of Justice has been consulting on the recently published report on the Review of the Youth Justice System in Northern Ireland. The report makes 31 major recommendations for changes.

We are keen to hear the views of people who have been affected by crime here, as victims, witnesses or family and friends on some specific areas:


Where a child over the minimum age of criminal responsibility commits an offence, the report states that in the main it is not in the child's best interests to be brought into the criminal justice system.

The report recommends:
The aims of the youth justice system should reflect the principle of proportionality and include a presumption that low level offending should be dealt with by parents (with support where necessary), school and communities or through a police disposal. This will require:
• the introduction of a multi-agency assistance at the point of arrest;
• building on the successful practices of community based restorative justice schemes;
• the extension of police discretion while ensuring adequate safeguards;
• greater use of police warnings and cautions for offences that would otherwise have been dealt with through more formal channels.

What do you think?


Restorative justice now plays a crucial part in the response to youth crime in Northern Ireland. Re-offending rates are lower than for most other sanctions and victim satisfaction is high.

The report recommends:
• The success of the Youth Conferencing approach should be built on by:
• maximising direct victim participation rates;
• ensuring conference outcomes are proportionate and relevant to the offending;
• reducing the time taken from arrest to conference disposal; and
• ensuring coordinators use their discretion to return to court those cases which in their professional judgement would be better dealt with formally.

What do you think?

The report states that delay in the criminal justice system is a major problem. It denies justice to victims and defendants, undermines human rights and erodes confidence in the criminal justice system and the rule of law.

The report recommends:
• Urgent attention needs to be paid to driving down the time taken for all diversionary disposals, in particular diversionary youth conferences. This process should be closely monitored by the Criminal Justice Board.
• Work to tackle the problem of delay should prioritise young offenders. The lessons learnt should then be applied to the adult criminal justice system.
• Statutory time limits should be introduced for all youth justice cases, providing for a maximum period from arrest to disposal of 120 days. This provision should include protection for victims from injustice in cases where the time limits are exceeded. The Criminal Justice Delivery Group and all relevant agencies should find the means to significantly reduce the time taken in advance of legislative change.

What do you think?


You can email your views to or you can take part in our online discussions this week via our Facebook and Twitter profiles



Date Posted: 09 Jan 2012

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