19/12/2003

Minister announces Youth Conferencing Service

Criminal Justice Minister John Spellar today announced the introduction of a pilot Youth Conferencing Service for young people who plead guilty or are found guilty of an offence.

John Spellar said the move marked the introduction of a new system of youth conferencing based on the principles of restorative justice.

"Youth conferences are not a soft option for the offender," the Minister said. "It is vital that young offenders take responsibility and face up to the impact of their actions and youth conferencing is an appropriate mechanism to achieve this.

"Victims now have the right in law to take part in conferences which will also involve the young offender, their family and the police. They will be able to share how they have been affected and will also have a say in the action plan coming out of the conference."

Youth conferencing will be piloted in the Greater Belfast area with further roll-out next year. It will initially apply to 10 to 16 year olds and it is expected that 17 year olds will be included by next autumn.

The Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 provides the legal basis for the introduction of the Youth Conference Service. Youth conferencing was one of the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review.

(MB)

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