Six steps forward for diversion in the youth justice system

Six steps forward for diversion in the youth justice system

The Centre for Justice Innovation published their briefing ‘Strengthening Youth Diversion’ in 2020.  Since then, there have been some important positive changes which suggest that the use of diversion in the youth justice system will continue to increase and improve.


This briefing highlights 6 positive changes that have been significant. These were:

  1. Diversion being added to the Youth Justice Board (YJB) definitions;
  2. The YJB published a new guide on how to complete annual justice plans. This includes guidance on how to cover diversion in youth justice plans;
  3. The Youth Gravity Matrix has been reviewed. This tool is helpful in determining if the child is eligible for an out of court disposal so is crucial as a gateway to diversion;
  4. The “Child first approach” promoted by the YJB has become mainstream amongst Youth Justice Services across the country and is now spreading into other areas of the youth justice system;
  5. Inspection of the youth offending services found out of court disposal case management has improved since previous years, and has highlighted good practice principles from areas that performed well in delivering diversionary measures;
  6. The YJB have updated their data recording requirements for YOTs to include diversionary outcomes.


We join the Centre for Justice Innovation in taking this opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the progress that the youth justice system has made and is making in this critical area.  Diversion plays an important role in enabling children who enter the youth justice system to gain necessary support and supervision without being permanently labelled and restricted by their actions. Out of court disposals are now more genuinely diversionary in nature since the law change in November 2020 meaning that no youth cautions, youth conditional cautions, reprimands or warnings will be automatically disclosed on standard or enhanced criminal record checks.  See our update on this here.

However, it is equally as important to take these positive steps as the beginning rather than the end. There is still some way to go in order to maintain and increase such changes. Practitioners need to remain aware and conscious of what they can do and what parts they play in promoting diversion.


Written by Aisha Rahal, Trainee Solicitor, Just For Kids Law