Young people’s voices on youth court

Young people’s voices on youth court

This briefing paper highlights young people’s experiences of Youth Court in three areas of England. Interviews were conducted with 25 young people who had recently attended court as a defendant. Interview findings were supplemented by observations of youth court hearings conducted by the research team.

The briefing is available here 

Much of what the young people told us related to aspects of procedural justice – a model which emphasises the importance of feeling fairly treated in determining a person’s future trust in and compliance with the law. The young people often spoke of their difficulties in understanding what was happening in court, and of feeling unable to speak, either through nervousness or fear or a perceived lack of opportunity to have any voice in court proceedings. However, they also noted aspects of professional practice that made them feel more at ease. Efforts made by court staff and judiciary to engage with the young person, for example, asking what name they preferred to be called by or apologising for any delays, were appreciated and contributed positively to their feelings about fair and respectful treatment by the court.

These findings form part of our multi-year study of practice in the Youth Court, conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Justice Innovation, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

In the last decade, there has been a 75% decline in cases coming to the Youth Court, caused both by falls in youth crime and the youth justice system’s success in diverting eligible cases away from court. Yet, while there are currently fewer young people in court, they tend to have more significant needs as well as more serious offending profiles. Our research focuses on how the Youth Court is meeting the needs of vulnerable young people. Specifically, we were interested in better understanding current youth court practice and exploring the potential for practices aligned with problem-solving justice – an evidence-based approach which seeks to hold people accountable while helping them to proactively engage with the court to address the factors driving their offending.  

The briefing paper is a prelude to the publication of Time to get it right: Enhancing problem-solving practice in the Youth Court – available in early July.