Enhancing problem-solving practice in youth court

In recent years there has been a significant reduction in the number of young people in the criminal justice system, in part due to declining levels of recorded youth crime and in part due to an expansion of diversionary practice. In this context, youth justice policy is evolving and it is therefore a pivotal time to understand how a smaller youth justice system can adapt to better serve the young people who come into contact with it, victims of crime and the wider public, by exploring alternative approaches to delivery that have the potential to further reduce re-offending.

Problem-solving courts move beyond the traditional focus of courts on case progression and sentencing decisions, to giving sentencers a central role in assessing appropriate forms of rehabilitation for a young person and monitoring a young person’s compliance and progress in following the orders of the court. While some components of problem-solving are already practiced in youth courts there is potential to do more. This project is designed to develop and support the delivery of local models of problem-solving practice that are effective in supporting young people in complying with orders and desisting from further offending. It will do so by working with three local areas.

Specifically, the project aims to:

  • Support the local areas in identifying what kinds of problem-solving practice can best meet the needs of court-involved young people in the specific locality
  • Work with the local areas to identify how the practices can be implemented, and to undertake a process evaluation to establish learning that can be shared more broadly
  • Establish how the impact of the problem-solving practices on key outcomes, such as compliance and reduced re-offending, can be assessed,  and to produce an evaluation design that can be subsequently implemented (the conduct of an impact evaluation is not itself part of this project)

The findings will not only generate learning for the local areas involved in the study, but will provide insights that other local areas can draw on in considering how they too can establish problem-solving practices to support young people in desisting from future offending and improving their later life chances.