North West BCU (Borough Command Unit) operates a police-led deferred prosecution scheme called Turning Point. Youth diversion forms part of Turning Point and contributes as another alternative to youth out of court disposals (OoCDs) available.
To participate in the youth diversion side of Turning Point a person must be under the age of 18 years old and have been arrested (or have attended a voluntary interview) for a minor offence (such as common assault). To address disproportionality in charging and as per the Lammy Review Recommendations, they do not need to admit guilt for the offence; alternatively, in order to be eligible for Turning Point there needs to be enough evidence to charge/caution them before they’re considered for Turning Point – i.e. it needs to meet the full code test. There are strict eligibility criteria, dictated by the Ministry of Justice, but a notable difference to our adult scheme is that the young person must have less than three previous court convictions (not cautions) within the past year.
The youth diversion side of the Turning Point referral process involves a weekly panel where OoCDs are considered. If any Youth Cautions (YC), Youth Conditional Cautions (YCCs) or Charges are agreed upon, these cases are put through the ‘Randomiser’ Online Tool to determine if they are to be put into Control group (Charge/Caution as normal) or Treatment Group (referred to Turning Point). These two cohorts are essential for accurately tracking if Turning Point impacts reoffending rates.
Young people who are referred into Turning Point are then offered a variation of rehabilitative, reparative or restrictive interventions (offence dependent) that last for sixteen weeks. If the young person successfully engages with the interventions their crime is processed as a Community Resolution (where the offence has been admitted) or NFA’d (where no admission has taken place).
The MPS will soon start using ‘Outcome 22’ to process successful completions of Turning Point. Importantly, if a young person is successful in completing their contract they receive no criminal record for that specific offence. However, if they breach the terms of their contract the young person is referred back to the officer in the case for the original charging decision (charge/caution).
Strengths and challenges
A big challenge faced within London on youth diversion is the complexity of partnership working with councils. Although challenges within partnership working are certainly not uncommon, it does prove to be a challenging frustration and risks the central point of the scheme (the young person’s needs) being displaced. This is likely an enhanced stressor within London due to the sheer size of the city and the demands being placed upon all services.
To try and minimise any potential disruption to a young person participating in Turning Point, we are now working towards an entirely ‘in-house’ youth referral process, whilst maintaining relevant agency links and assistance where appropriate. This allows our Turning Point team to further enhance their strong rapport between offender managers (OMs) and referral, which maximises the potential for a positive impact on the young people referred.
OMs can build strong and effective partnerships - working with the young people from the very beginning - meaning they work case-by-case to ensure available contractual conditions are as effective as possible and are negotiated and agreed upon in a timely manner with the young person. Furthermore, the ‘in-house’ management of referrals provides a higher degree of continuity, consistency and swiftness of action which will benefit working with referrals and partner agencies.
We recently had a young person successfully complete Turning Point, who came from a relatively chaotic home-life. He built a personable relationship with his OM, requesting a number of additional appointments with her. Towards the end of his contract the Turning Point team were keen to link him with proactive services who he could continue to positively engage with following the completion of his contract.
He was connected with one of our partner agencies – Saracens – to join a new mentoring programme. Through these personal relationships built between OMs and their referrals, a continuation of service (where the young person themselves feel it is appropriate and beneficial) can be established through our professional networks, meaning the potential for longer term impact.