Magistrates back court-style hearings to deter young gang members from crime

By Neil Puffett

| 26 September 2012

Court-style hearings that highlight the consequences of crime to young gang members at risk of offending should be considered across all of England and Wales, a leading magistrate has said.

Derby is the latest area to try to steer young people away from gangs through "call-ins". Image: Arlen Connelly

Following the success of projects in Glasgow and London, Derby has become the latest area to use so-called gang “call-ins” to try and persuade young people to change their lifestyle.

The initiative involves known gang members being invited to take part in a special hearing by a youth worker, police officer or probation worker who already knows them.

In Derby a total of 20 young people have signed a pledge to turn their lives around, following a “call-in” hearing at the city’s crown court involving police, a judge, a trauma surgeon and an ex-gang member, who used the meeting to explain the potential repercussions of crime.

John Bache, chair of the youth courts committee of the Magistrates’ Association, told CYP Now that such hearings could help address problems in other areas.

“Gangs are a huge problem, particularly in the big cities and anything we can do to reduce the gang culture would be welcome,” he said.

“If we could get young people to sign some sort of pact, it could only be to people’s benefit. Often with so many young people they don’t think of the consequences of their actions.”

The concept has also been backed by Mark Johnson, founder of crime reduction charity User Voice, who said it could offer young people the excuse they need to steer clear of negative influences.

“Often young people need an excuse to do something different because of the amount of peer pressure involved,” he said. “Maybe this is a good enough excuse.”

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