Samantha Matthews, Youth Justice Manager at East Riding YOS, writes about the evolution of their Out Of Court Disposal Scheme.
Over the last 5 years, the Out Of Court Disposal Scheme at East Riding Youth Offending Service has changed significantly. The current model has been developed and in practice since March 2018 after the release of HMIPs Thematic Inspection. As a team we developed the current model, based upon the recommendations from this research. This model aims to divert children and young people away from the criminal justice system and to improve their life chances. A major change incorporated into this model is including the victim’s views which are now central along with the needs of the young person when considering an appropriate disposal, also the safety of the victim is assessed and incorporated into the assessments. This process has allowed victims to become part of the process and feel very much included and listened to, which in turn has given the victims confidence in the justice system.
The Out of Court Disposal Scheme
A young person becomes involved in the Out of Court Disposal scheme if they have been arrested for a criminal offence. Following arrest, a Police officer creates a file and the file is referred to the Youth Offending Service. The young person is then referred to a case manager to undertake an assessment to identify the risks and needs of the young person and also their views in terms of engagement with the Out of Court process.
An Out of Court Disposal Meeting is held weekly. Participating in this meeting is the YOS Senior Practitioner, the Restorative Justice Officer, the YOS Police Officer, the YOS CAMHS Nurse, a community volunteer and the case manager who has written the assessment. If the young person is open to any other agency and it’s deemed appropriate, they will be invited to attend the panel in order to gain their views and understanding of the outcome of the recommendation. This process also allows the panel to divert the Out of Court work to the professionals already involved with the young person if deemed appropriate.
From the assessment, the panel can fully determine the views of the child and the parents / carers, and also the risks and needs of the victim. A decision is then made that is bespoke to the child’s needs which takes into account the understanding and level of functioning of the child. Also considered is the impact upon the victim and how the young person can work towards making this right.
The decision making process always considers what is in the public interest, with the ACPO gravity score determining the base line for the disposal. Where possible the panel will consider a Triage intervention, however for more serious cases such as knife crime, the panel will in the main consider a longer intervention through a Youth Conditional Caution. The Panel can and will also divert cases that are deemed too
serious back to Court, however it’s not often that this occurs due to the Police having initially made the correct decision to divert to the YOS.
Young people who have previously participated in an Out of Court Disposal scheme may be considered a second time depending on the offence and/or personal circumstances. A condition for this process is that the young person admits guilt for the offence/s.
Once a decision has been made at the Out of Court Panel, a suitable plan is collated at Panel, which is then discussed and agreed with the child and parent/ carer. The plan of work will have already been discussed at assessment stage and we usually have an indication of the level of engagement prior to panel.
Many of the young people coming through the Out of Court Panel present with complex needs, have experienced adverse childhood experiences, and consequently they require additional welfare support. There is no specific set time period for Triage interventions, however most usually they last between four to six weeks. If there are any further specific needs identified that require additional support, the YOS will continue to support the young person until it’s deemed appropriate to divert or end the support. An example of this, is when we have allocated a male mentor as a positive role model and the mentor stayed involved after the end of the Triage intervention to manage the support with the young person gaining access to positive activities. Once it was felt the young person was confident in accessing activities independently, the mentor was released.
If a young person still requires support after completing Triage, a multi-agency meeting is arranged with agencies who could offer the most suitable support, mainly early help, from this meeting a robust exit plan is put in place with support tailored to their needs.
This process is aimed to deliver short interventions and support to divert young people away from offending with an emphasis on tailor made interventions programmes focused on desistance. Interventions range from a letter of apology, drug and alcohol counselling, mentoring, to face to face restorative justice. The interventions are aimed to be preventative as opposed to punitive.
Upon completion of the Out of Court Interventions, the Youth Offending service reports back to the Police about the success of the young person completing the interventions. Successful completion of Triage interventions results in a young person not having a criminal record on the Police National Computer (PNC). However, in limited circumstances it may be disclosed on an enhanced DBS check for employment, if the Police officer in their discretion believes it is relevant for safeguarding reasons.
One of the biggest challenges in the scheme relates to when a young person has successfully completed an Out of Court intervention, but offences pre-dating that Disposal come through. This is difficult for the YOS to manage because the young person has just completed a robust intervention plan and then has to consider an offence that pre dates all of this work. This often results in confusion and frustration for the young person and their parents/ carer’s, however we have to consider there is a usually a victim who has suffered and consequently action is required.
Another challenge relates to the fact that Triage interventions are designed to be a brief, short diversionary disposal , however many of the children and young people who become involved in the Out of Court Disposal process have complex issues and vulnerabilities – often issues that are not directly related to their offending, that need to be addressed. It is in these cases where we would call a Multi Agency Meeting and divert the young person to relevant early help services.
STATS & SUCCESS
East Riding Youth Offending Service have found year on year reductions in first time entrants to the criminal justice system. The reoffending rate on triage disposals is consistently below 10%.
As a team we believe this reduction in First Time Entrants and the low reoffending rate is partly as a result of the strong partnership between Police and the Youth Offending Service, including effective joint decision making, which keeps children and young people diverted from the system. In addition to this, practitioners use innovative techniques for intervention and relationship building to ensure the individual needs of young people are addressed as early as possible.
There is a high level of victim satisfaction and restorative conferences have proved to be very successful.
In March 2019, East Riding Youth Offending Service was inspected by HMIP and received a rating of “outstanding”. It was the first ever YOS or Probation Service to score full marks in an official inspection. The Out of Court work was viewed as “exemplary” by the Inspectors
Samantha Matthews, Youth Justice Manager at East Riding YOS.