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Referral orders are given to most 10 to 17-year-olds pleading guilty and being convicted for the first time in court.
Those served with a referral order must attend a youth offender panel to decide the correct course of action for their offence(s) and agree to a contract outlining the work to be undertaken whilst on the referral order.
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 Brent 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.
Purpose and structure
Referral orders and youth offender panels adhere to the 'restorative justice' model of responsibility, restoration and re-integration. The aim is to make offenders take responsibility and make amends for the consequences of their offending.
This can lead to the offenders making restoration to the victim or wider community.
Restorative justice also gives the victims of the offence a part in the process: they may ask questions, receive an explanation and/or an apology and discuss how the offender can make practical reparation for any distress and inconvenience they may have caused.
Youth offending team members
Panels are made up of: Youth offending team members.
These 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
These are members of the community. They have been trained to sit as panel members, however they work on a voluntary (unpaid) basis.
Prior to the meeting they may have read a report on the offender detailing the offence and general facts about their background.