The effectiveness of Youth Conferencing - A Follow-Up review

Publication: 18/09/19
Youth Conferencing - Follow-up
Inspectorate finds progress made in implementing youth conferencing recommendations

Work by the Youth Justice Agency to improve how youth conferencing is delivered in Northern Ireland has been welcomed in a new report published today (18 April 2019) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI).

The follow-up review which assessed progress against previous inspection recommendations found that three out of four recommendations had been achieved.

“Youth conferencing is rooted in restorative practice and provides children and young people with an opportunity to understand and make amends for the consequences of their offending behaviour, while taking steps to prevent future reoffending,” said James Corrigan, Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.

“It is a valuable tool which can help divert young people away from offending and break the cycle of progression from youth custody on to other custodial facilities and adult prison.”

In carrying out this follow up review Inspectors found the landscape in which the Youth Justice Agency delivers youth conferencing had changed in the four years since the last report was published.

“Youth Engagement Clinics have been rolled out and are fully functioning across Northern Ireland, providing a new forum where information about diversionary disposals including youth conferences, can been provided to children and their parents and/or carers,” said Mr Corrigan.

Inspectors found there had been work undertaken to increase the number of youth conferences taking place within Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre (the JJC).  Information sharing between JJC staff and Youth Justice Services’ staff involved in delivering youth conferences had also improved.

Communication between Youth Justice Agency staff and prosecutors within the Public Prosecution Service had also progressed, which in turn assisted prosecutors in making prosecutorial decisions in cases relating to children.

The Deputy Chief Inspector concluded that recommendations contained within the Department of Health’s review of regional facilities for children and young people provided a new opportunity for the Departments of Health and Justice to lead jointly on its vision to improve the experiences and outcomes for children in care.

“This review provides a new framework for the Youth Justice Agency to work with the Department of Health to develop its services including restorative practices for children in care homes,” said Mr Corrigan.