30 September 2005

Victims of youth crime get say in punishment

Belfast Telegraph

By Jonathan McCambridge
29 September 2005

An innovative restorative justice project for victims of youth crime has now been rolled out into border areas of Co Armagh.

Youth Conferencing has operated in greater Belfast since December 2003 and is being extended gradually in the rest of the province.

When a young person is referred by the PSNI to the Public Prosecution Service or to the Youth Court and pleads guilty to an offence in the area, the victims of those offences may now be offered an opportunity to be involved in the justice process.

The offender will have to make amends for the harm caused with the victim helping to choose the punishment.

The scheme is operated by the Youth Justice Agency, created in April 2003. It should be available in all other areas of Northern Ireland by the end of 2006.

The Youth Conference service organises a meeting or series of meetings involving the young offender, their family, the victim and the community to look at the impact of the crime on the victim.

Victims have an opportunity through this process to challenge the young person about the effect their actions have had on them and to seek reparation for the harm that has been caused.

This can happen through a face to face meeting with the offender or if the victim prefers it through a video tape, a statement or by them having a representative attend in their place to relay their views.

The victim has a chance to have specific questions answered by the offender and to have the support of family or a friend in the room if needed.

The legislation allows for the young person to undertake a range of actions with the aims of repairing the harm and reducing the risk of them re-offending.

The young person may apologise directly to the victim for the consequences of their actions and may be required to make payment for items taken or damage caused.

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