Legal Update - In a nutshell: The work of youth ?offending teams

Coram Children's Legal Centre
Monday, August 20, 2012

A range of professionals make up youth offending teams, tasked with preventing youth offending and reducing imprisonment

What is a youth offending team?
A youth offending team (YOT) is a multi-agency team that works to prevent youth offending, recidivism and incarceration. YOTs were formed by the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998 as part of an effort to make the youth justice system more effective and efficient. They are staffed by professionals with a range of skills including social workers, medical professionals, psychologists, education specialists, family therapists, police officers and probation officers.

How does a youth offending team do its work?

A YOT works with young people between the ages of 10 and 17 who are at risk of offending, who have offended but have not been convicted  – they may have received a reprimand or a final warning from police – or who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced by a court.

YOTs develop structured programmes for young offenders that address the circumstances that put young people at risk of offending. Restorative justice, one of the principles that underpins YOTs’ work, emphasises the importance of making young people aware of the consequences offending has for themselves, their families, their victims and communities, and helps to repair the harm that has been caused.

The YOT does its work in five steps:

1. Assessing the young person to determine what caused him or her to offend.

2. Developing an intervention plan to address factors that affect the young person’s behaviour.

3. Supervising the young person for a period of time determined by a court.

4. Supporting him or her to make positive life changes.

5. Where absolutely necessary, returning the young person to a court.

Young people who are first-time offenders and plead guilty are likely to receive a Referral Order. This involves a meeting with a panel composed of a YOT member and two trained community members, as well as the young person, a parent and the victim, if he or she wishes to attend. At the meeting the panel will use restorative justice processes to determine what needs to be done to repair the harm caused. The panel will develop a plan with input from the young person to repair the harm and address factors that contributed to the young person’s behaviour.

Young people who have committed a second offence, or deny offending and are found guilty, are likely to receive a Youth Rehabilitation Order. This will include interventions chosen from a “menu of requirements,” which includes: supervision, curfew, exclusion, community service, residence or a programme (to address issues the young person faces, such as gang violence, substance misuse or family difficulties).

Serious and persistent offenders who are at risk of custody will be put under intensive supervision and surveillance, which involves more thorough monitoring, and must include: education, training or employment, offending behaviour work, restorative justice methods, family support and the development of interpersonal skills. YOTs work to ensure that custody is only used as a last resort.

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