Northern Ireland has a well-developed system of restorative justice where the offender admits his guilt and meets the victim to discuss its impact.

An influential committee of MPs took evidence on the scheme from the YJA at Stormont. Agency chief executive Paula Jack said: "I don't think it is seen as the soft option."

A young person can be referred by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) or the court to the YJA for a youth conference. According to the agency, the conference is a meeting which gives the offender the chance to tell the participants at the meeting why he committed the offence and, subsequently, allows the victim to tell them how they have been affected by the crime.

....The conference is based on all participants talking and reaching agreement on a plan to meet the needs of the victim and stop the young person reoffending. The agency analysed youth reoffending in Northern Ireland within a year for those given a diversionary youth conference plan, a non-custodial court order or discharged from custody in 2008.

The overall 2008 reoffending rate was 37.4% when out-of-court sanctions, cautions and warnings were taken into account. The 2008 one-year reoffending rate for all youths discharged from custody was 68.3%. Those cases solely involving diversionary youth conference plans had a one-year reoffending rate of 29.4%.

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