Youth Juries to rule on justice for young offenders

By staff writers
13 Sep 2007

A pilot project in which new "youth juries" will help in the administration of justice for young offenders is being launched in Lancashire.

Teenagers in court in Preston will have the right to demand a jury of people their own age under a "restorative" justice pilot being announced by the Government.

The pilot is being led by Nacro, the crime reduction charity.

Churches and Christians groups are amongst those who have encouraged the Government to look at creative alternatives in the criminal justice system, aimed at restoring the damage done by crime. Justice, they say, should be geared more towards making things right, than simple punishment which rarely satisfies victims, or prevents reoffending.

In particular, they have urged the exploration of Victim Offender Reconciliation Programmes (VORPS) which allow victims of crime to tell offenders how they have been hurt by crime.

The latest scheme is one of several pilots across the country, including another one organised by Cheshire Police which will allow victims of crime to demand a face-to-face apology from offenders.

The Lancashire scheme was launched by the Solicitor General, Vera Baird, QC, with a speech in Preston yesterday.

The peer panels, originally announced in the Budget in March, will involve low-level crimes such as under-age drinking, graffiti and neighbourhood nuisances.

The children who take part in the juries will be aged from 10 to 17 and be given training and support from adults.

Offenders could then be ordered to pay cash, clean up graffiti or write a letter of apology to their victim.

Simon Evans, from Nacro, said the young "judges" will be drawn from local schools and will be given special training and help from adults for their role.

"It makes a lot more sense to them than someone like me, at 42, telling them you've been bad, and here's a fine," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

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