Key Facts

  • The Youth Conference Service was introduced in Northern Ireland in 2003 – since then, more than 5,500 referrals have been made to the service.
  • There are two types of conference – diversionary, where a young person is referred prior to conviction, and court-ordered, where a young person is referred post-conviction.
  • In 2006, the combined reoffending rate for youth conferencing was 37.7% - this compared to 52.1% for community sentences and 70.7% for custodial sentences.
  • Between 2003-05, a quarter of all referrals were for violence against the person offences.
  • Victims were present in two-thirds of all conferences held in 2008-09 – 89% expressed satisfaction with the conference outcome, and 90% said they would recommend it to a friend.
  • The number of children sentenced to immediate custody in Northern Ireland dropped from 139 in 2003 to 89 in 2006.
  • In addition, the percentage of convicted young offenders sentenced to custody fell from 10% in 2004 to 7% in 2006, whilst the percentage receiving a youth conference order increased from 1% to 23%.
  • The ratio of the 10-17 population in Northern Ireland who were sentenced to custody in 2006 was 1:2265 – in England and Wales the equivalent ratio sentenced to custody in 2006/07 was 1:760.
  • Nearly two-thirds of children in the Juvenile Justice Centre (JJC), the main secure facility for children, are on remand.
  • Despite a Youth Justice Board commitment to placing restorative justice at the heart of the youth justice system, its use in England and Wales has so far been limited.
  • The number of children sentenced to custody in England and Wales more than tripled between 1991-2006.

Read the full report online.

The BBC news report on the study is available here.