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Report highlights the benefits of problem-solving courts for young people

Report by the Centre for Justice Innovation reviewing the evidence collected by a working group on problem-solving courts. The report highlights how problem-solving courts could better address youth offending in some circumstances.

Details

The report outlines the key features of problem-solving courts and identifies that some of these features may be especially relevant for young offenders with complex needs at risk of custody in the youth court.

The report identifies that ‘accountability’ is particularly important to young offenders and therefore the role of the sentencer in problem-solving courts could have a strong impact on compliance and reducing reoffending for young offenders. Additionally the report suggests that the enhanced specialisation problem-solving courts can deliver is likely to work with young offenders:

“It is well established in the research literature that individualised assessment and treatment targeted at young people’s specific risk factors works to promote rehabilitation and reintegration” [page 24].

The report concludes that:

“..due to there being a greater concentration of children with complex needs coming to court, key features of the problem-solving approach may be especially relevant for young offenders with complex needs. However, any enhancement of problem-solving features in youth court needs to take into consideration lessons from other parts of the evidence base on working with young offenders. For example, there is clear evidence that, where possible, youth offenders should be kept away from the formal system through triage and diversion, as prosecution and court appearances themselves can be criminogenic.” [page 25]

Read the full report here.

Commentary

The publication of this report coincides with a recent announcement by the Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, that problem solving courts may be a ‘good idea’. It is also anticipated that Charlie Taylor’s Review of the Youth Justice System will recommend changes to youth courts, youth sentencing and the greater use of problem-solving approaches in courts.

The report makes it clear that any enhancement of problem-solving in the youth court should not be a substitute for greater use of pre-court measures for young people. It is essential that there is a careful examination of the use of problem-solving approaches so practitioners can guard against children unecessarily entering the court system where they would have previously have avoided it through the use of diversion and out of court disposals.