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Full Implementation of Referral Orders in England and Wales

As of April 2002, Courts in England and Wales now have a new disposal option for young offenders pleading guilty or convicted of first offenses. Originally set forth in the 1999 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act, the referral order scheme underwent an 18-month evaluation of 11 pilot projects between March 2000 and August 2001.

The referral order is an attempt to integrate restorative justice values (as defined by the Home office) into the youth justice system. These values include:

  • Responsibility—holding young people accountable for their actions and encouraging more responsible future behavior.

  • Restoration (reparation)- exploring possibilities for making amends to victims or the community.

  • Re-integration- providing support to help young people to become law-abiding adults.  

The referral order sends the young offender to a Youth Offender Panel that consists of two community members and one representative of the Youth Offending Team. The panel holds a meeting which may include the offender, the offender's parents, a support for the offender and the victim and a victim supporter to discuss the crime and work on a solution. The panel:

  • Confronts the young offender with the impact of his crime in an attempt to prevent re-offending.

  • Provides a forum for involved parties to discuss the circumstances leading up to the offense.

  • Develops a plan of action addressing reparation and the issues behind the offending behavior.

In an overview of the work (done before the orders went into effect) of the youth offender team , Mick Cundy, a referral order officer,  provides the following statistics:  

  •  60% successful completion of orders.

  • 69% successful completion of bail.

  • 22% no re-offending within a year.

  • 73% less serious offending.

  • 30% increase in educational engagement.

  • 9% reduction in number offending.

  • 90% of parents satisfied.  

  • Evidence of victim empowerment

The evaluation of the pilot projects interviewed different groups involved in the referral process. It assessed the attitudes of court personnel, the community participants, the young people, their families, and the victims as well as the opinions of Youth Offender Panel participants. The study also evaluated procedural issues and made suggestions for improvement. The three reports may be found at:
 

Newburn, Tim, et al. 2002. The Introduction of Referral Orders in to the Youth Justice System: Final Report. Home Office Research, Development, and Statistics Directorate. March 2002.

Newburn, Tim, et al. 2001. The Introduction of Referral Orders in to the Youth Justice System: Second Interim Report. Home Office Research, Development, and Statistics Directorate. September 2001.

Newburn, Tim, et al. 2001. The Introduction of Referral Orders in to the Youth Justice System: First Interim Report. Home Office Research, Development, and Statistics Directorate. January 2001.  

 

For more information: 

 

The UK government maintains two informative websites on Youth Justice Boards and on Youth Offender Panels.

 

 

By Lynette Parker
May 2002

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