Youth Court of England and Wales

Youth court, also known as teen court or peer court, is a unique judicial system designed to address offences committed by juveniles. Unlike traditional courts, youth court involves a restorative justice approach, emphasising rehabilitation, education, and community involvement rather than punitive measures. This alternative system is typically run by young volunteers who assume various roles within the court process.

Peer-driven system: One of the distinctive features of youth court is that it involves young volunteers, often high school students, who take on the roles of attorneys, jurors, and sometimes judges. The peer-driven nature of the system is intended to foster understanding and empathy among participants.

Restorative justice: Youth court places a strong emphasis on restorative justice principles. Instead of focusing solely on punishment, the goal is to repair harm, restore relationships, and address the underlying issues that led to the offence. Offenders are given an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and make amends to the community.

Non-adversarial setting: Youth court operates in a non-adversarial setting, where the emphasis is on dialogue and resolution rather than confrontation. The goal is to create a supportive environment that encourages personal growth and positive behaviour change.

Educational component: Youth court often includes an educational component where offenders are required to participate in programs, workshops, or community service designed to address the root causes of their behaviour. This can include counselling, educational courses, or skill-building activities.

Community involvement: The community plays a significant role in youth court proceedings. Community members, including adult volunteers, may serve as mentors, offer guidance, and provide support for the young participants. This involvement helps strengthen community bonds and encourages a sense of responsibility among all stakeholders.

Low-level offences: Youth court typically handles minor offences committed by first-time or low-level juvenile offenders. Common cases may involve offences such as vandalism, theft, minor drug offences, or school-related misconduct. Serious or repeat offences may be referred to traditional juvenile courts.

Confidentiality: Youth court proceedings are often confidential, protecting the privacy of the young participants. This confidentiality encourages open communication and allows for a more honest exploration of the factors contributing to the offence.

Voluntary participation: Participation in youth court is often voluntary for both the offender and the peer volunteers. Offenders may opt for youth court as an alternative to traditional legal proceedings, and peer volunteers typically join the program willingly.

While youth court is not a solution for all juvenile offences, it offers a promising alternative that aligns with the principles of restorative justice and community involvement. It provides a supportive framework for young individuals to learn from their mistakes, make amends, and reintegrate positively into their communities.
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