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Youth Offender Panel Volunteers in England and Wales - Dec 2002

NCJ Number
Fiona Biermann; Abigail Moulton
Date Published
15 pages
This report summarizes the findings from a 2002 survey of all volunteers who were sitting on youth offender panels in England and Wales, so as to determine their characteristics and whether or not they were representative of the communities the panels were serving.
Britain's 1998 Crime and Disorder Act emphasizes restorative justice principles for the operation of the youth justice system in England and Wales. Under this principle, all first-time juvenile offenders (18 years old and under) who plead guilty, are convicted in court, and do not receive an absolute discharge, hospital order, or a custodial penalty are given a referral order. This order is designed to involve members of the local community in working with offenders and victims to address the harm caused by the offense. Referral orders were piloted in 11 areas in England and Wales from the summer of 2000 until the orders became nationwide in April 2002. Under the referral order, the offender and the offender's parents or guardians meet with a youth offender panel (YOP) that is composed of Youth Offending Team (YOT) workers, at least two volunteers from the community, and sometimes the victim of the crime. The role of the community volunteers sitting on the YOP's is to represent the views of the wider community, so it is important that they are representative of those communities. The survey requested that all 155 YOT's provide information on the volunteers, such as age, gender, and other demographic information. The survey also asked about recruitment and turnover. One survey was conducted in June 2002, and another was administered in December 2002. Key findings of the surveys were that there were over 5,130 fully trained YOP volunteers on December 31, 2002; 139 YOT's responded to both surveys; between surveys, the number of panel volunteers increased by 21 percent; 65 percent of panel volunteers were female; those over 65 years old were underrepresented among panel volunteers, and Black groups were somewhat overrepresented; most members sat on a panel between once a week and once a month; and YOT's reported few problems with turnover of panel volunteers, although there were some difficulties with recruitment in some areas. An analysis of the surveys and the communities served found that YOP volunteers were fairly representative of the populations served in most respects, apart from gender (two-thirds of volunteers were female). Further targeting of underrepresented groups is warranted. 5 figures, 8 references, and appended survey questionnaire