... The Commission wants to see prevention and early intervention given a higher profile in tackling crime and antisocial behaviour. Research has shown how action to raise the quality of upbringing, education and support that children receive can significantly influence later outcomes, including less involvement in crime.
...We want to see a structured programme of investment in the most promising preventive approaches including ‘universal’ services working with all the children or families in an area and ‘targeted’ prevention. To avoid stigma, the emphasis when offering targeted services should be on the immediate needs of children, not the risks of future offending. Children with severe behavioural problems must be properly assessed to identify potentially complex welfare problems.
...Our guiding principles combined with research evidence have drawn us to the concept and practice of restorative justice. This is a problem-solving approach “…whereby parties with a stake in a specific offender resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future.” Offenders agree to discuss the consequences of their behaviour, its effect on the victim(s), and consider how to make amends. Victims are able to make the offender aware of the harm they have experienced and to discuss what remedies would be acceptable.
... Antisocial behaviour is not exclusively, or even mostly, caused by children and young people. The Commission has, nevertheless, visited neighbourhoods where children and young people have contributed to nuisance behaviour, including intimidating, drunken behaviour, vandalism and harassment. There may be no alternative to the use of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) in extreme cases of sustained intimidation, but we recommend they be used as a last resort for people under 18. Warning letters and voluntary Antisocial Behaviour Contracts (ABCs) are by far the most common interventions now used and lend themselves to a restorative process. Introduction of a youth conferencing system would justify greater use of conventional criminal proceedings to tackle antisocial behaviour.
...Restorative youth conferencing would reduce the need for conventional court proceedings, but it would not remove it. Community-based sentencing options available to the Youth Court were reformed as recently as November 2009 when a Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO) was introduced providing a menu of 18 requirements in one ‘wraparound’ order.
The Commission has concerns that the use of risk assessment in connection with the new order might lead to disproportionate intervention in the lives of some children and young people. YROs are, nevertheless, a step in the right direction and can be used in different combinations for repeat offenders, instead of moving ‘up tariff’ towards custody.
...Wider use of restorative justice will exert downward pressure on the use of custody. But we also recommend the introduction of a statutory threshold to define the circumstances in which custody can be used.
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