Dominic SR Goble JP DL
Seven years ago, the Northamptonshire Magistracy started looking at ways to better support the children and young people who appeared before their youth courts. During the years that followed the Magistracy has been innovating and acting as a national model of excellence with three major initiatives, the third one just about to launch – its Youth Court Solutions project. Research into ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) suggest that any brush with the criminal justice system, which constitutes an ACE, results in approximately 70% of child victims going on to become adult offenders. Youth Court Solutions is designed to tackle these issues as early as possible, whenever a child or young person comes into contact with the courts, in whatever capacity.
Step 1: Youth Review Panel – a post-court review
Judges and Magistrates take a lot of care to ensure the sentences they pass are right and appropriate. Sentences are designed to address the offending, while having full regard to the welfare of the child. The Northamptonshire Magistracy considered ways that they could inspire, motivate and support the child and young people while under a court order. Starting with letters of congratulation when orders were revoked early due to excellent progress, the idea of offering support throughout the duration of the court order was next. A new and innovative Youth Review Panel was born. Specially trained magistrates attend the panels as guests of the Youth Offending Service, with no formal power, but the opportunity for the child, young person and family members to meet the magistrates is seen by them as very significant.
Step 2: Problem Solving Hearing – in-court coordination
In 2014, a major inquiry documented how the various agencies that support a court order were too often working at odds with each other. The Northants Magistracy considered how the court sentencing hearing could engage the broad range of professionals needed in really complex cases, and a Problem Solving Hearing was initiated, with all professionals having responsibility for any element of the court order requested to attend. In court, each professional is engaged by the presiding justice to declare what they propose to do and how they intend to deliver. To support understanding, the presiding justice will ensure there is clarity on behalf of all attending professionals, the child or young person and their family.
Step 3: Youth Court Solutions – a new at-court service and support
Which brings us up to date and the launching of the third wave of the Magistracy’s problem-solving approach. The vast majority of children and young people who offend are often living with other difficulties far outside their own control. Most have also been victims of crime or some other kind of abuse before finding themselves before the court for their own wrongdoing. Likewise, often the other children or young people involved as either victims, witnesses or even as the siblings of those involved, are also living with tremendous difficulties badly influencing their lives and restricting their opportunities in life. Youth Court Solutions will launch in pilot form this autumn and will operate in the public area of the Wellingborough court and will involve access to a range of charities, coordinated by the Crysalys Foundation, working in conjunction with the Youth Offending Service, police and the legal profession, and enjoying the support of the Lieutenancy; the High Sheriff; the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner; and the University. It will offer the child the prospect of a life free from the impact of crime, whether as a witness, victim or perpetrator. It will ensure that all young visitors have access to a wide range of help which includes: Information on the working of the criminal justice system Support services to address the issues which bring children and young people to court Practical support with financial issues, debt and accommodation Introductions to learning and training opportunities As the project develops, it will be keen to engage businesses willing to offer company visits, work experience, training, apprenticeships, jobs and mentoring to give young people the opportunity for a meaningful career and worthwhile life.
If you would like to support this initiative email Dominic.Goble.JP@ejudiciary.net