Progress on implementation of review of the Youth Justice Review recommendations

Publication: 11/12/15
Inspectorate outlines progress against Youth Justice Review recommendations

Fewer young people entering the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland has been highlighted as the primary achievement of the Youth Justice Review in a report published today (11 December 2015) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI).

The report is the second of two reports by the Inspectorate reviewing progress on the implementation of the 2011 Youth Justice Review recommendations.

"The Youth Justice Review was one of a number of reviews commissioned by the Department of Justice (DoJ) after justice matters were devolved in 2010. It focused on those areas which would make the greatest difference to the lives of children, victims and communities," said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.

"After the majority of the Youth Justice Review recommendations were accepted by the Minister of Justice in 2012, CJI was asked to independently monitor and assess progress towards their implementation.

"Inspectors are pleased to report no child under 18 years of age has been held in an adult prison in Northern Ireland in the last four years. In addition, the effective use of youth diversion, youth engagement clinics and other early intervention initiatives has meant the number of young people being committed to youth custody has dropped," said Mr McGuigan.

Where young people are committed to custody, the Chief Inspector said their offending profile meant they were the most disturbed and dangerous young people and committal was appropriate.

Mr McGuigan said that the DoJ had fallen short of meeting its own target of 90% achievement of accepted recommendations by March 2014 and Inspectors found that only 59% of recommendations were achieved by 2015.

"Inspectors acknowledge that a lack of political consensus meant that some of the legislative changes envisaged by the Youth Justice Review Team were not possible within the lifetime of the current Northern Ireland Assembly," he remarked.

These included matters such as raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years and introducing statutory time limits to reduce avoidable delay for youth justice cases.

Mr McGuigan added that while he welcomed the steps taken to reduce the number of young people entering the criminal justice system, Inspectors had found a loss of momentum in implementing the recommendations over the past two years.

"The criminal justice system is changing and the current financial environment is presenting challenges that must be addressed and factored into our assessment of progress.

"That is why I consider the scoping study announced by the Minister of Justice in May presents a timely opportunity to re-focus attention on the key issues that will offer the greatest benefit for the youth justice system in the future," concluded Mr McGuigan.