Referral orders are given to most 10 to 17 year olds pleading guilty for the first time in court unless the offence is so serious as to warrant a custodial sentence.
In some cases a referral order may be appropriate for someone who already has convictions.
If you are in this position you should discuss this possibility with your solicitor. Those served with a referral order must attend a youth offender panel to decide the correct course of action for their offences.
A referral order may last for between three and twelve months but will only begin after the first panel meeting.
Youth offender panels
Youth offender panels are meetings where the victims and offenders can be brought together face to face. Meetings are staged in a controlled environment, with members of the youth offending team and community panel members acting as a neutral party between those involved in the offence.
The offence is discussed, and suitable remedies for the situation are decided upon. A contract is then drawn up to address the issues. Failure to comply with the details of the contract may result in the case going before the courts for further disciplinary action.
The purpose of youth offender panel
Referral orders build on the justice model of responsibility, restoration and re-integration. The aim is to make offenders take responsibility and make amends for the consequences of their actions. This can lead to the offenders making restoration to the victim or wider community.
Youth offending team members
They are professional workers, trained to work with young offenders and help them to comply with the orders given to them by the courts. They can also help offenders with problems that may lead to offending, and put in place interventions to prevent people from re-offending.
Youth offending panel members
They are members of the community where you live. They have been trained to sit as panel members, however work on a voluntary (unpaid) basis. Prior to the meeting they will have been given a report detailing the offence and any relevant background information.
Working with the victim
Restorative justice gives the victims of the offence a part in the process, the victim may ask questions, receive an explanation, an apology and/or discuss how the offender can make practical amends for any distress and inconvenience they may have caused.