Since April 2002 a Referral Order has been available to the Courts, changing the way in which first time young offenders are dealt with. Referral Orders will be given to most 10 to 17-year olds pleading guilty and being convicted for the first time in Court.
Those served with a Referral Order must attend a 'Youth Offender Panel' to decide the correct course of action for their offence(s).
What exactly are Youth Offender Panels?
Youth Offender Panels are meeting where the victims and offenders can be brought together face to face.
Meetings are staged in a controlled environment, with members of the Youth Offending Team and Community Panel members acting as a neutral party between those involved in the offence. The offence is discussed, and suitable remedies for the situation are decided upon. A contract is then drawn up to address the issues.
Failure to comply with the details of the contract may result in the case going before the Courts for further disciplinary action.
Why use a Youth Offender Panel?
Referral Orders adhere to the 'restorative justice' model of responsibility, restoration and re-integration.
The aim is to make offenders take responsibility and make amends for the consequences of their offending.
This can lead to the offenders making restoration to the victim or wider community.
Who are the Youth Offending Team members?
They are professional workers, trained to work with young offenders and help them to comply with the Orders given to them by the Courts. They can also help offenders with problems that may lead to offending, and put in place interventions to prevent people from re-offending.
Who are the panel members?
They are members of the community where you live. They have been trained to sit as Panel members, however work on a voluntary (unpaid) basis. Prior to the meeting they may have read a report on you detailing the offence and general facts about your background.
Working with the victim
Restorative Justice gives the victims of the offence a part in the process, the victim may ask questions, receive an explanation, an apology and/or discuss how the offender can make practical reparation for any distress and inconvenience they may have caused.