The research team from the probation inspectorate has just (24 March 2023) published a new report on the implementation and delivery of community resolutions: the role of youth offending services. The research is based on a national survey which received responses from 74 youth offending teams and interviews on five case study sites.
The use of out-of-court disposals (OOCDs) with young people who break the law is increasing. One OOCD is a community resolution (CR) which allows the police to deal with less serious offences in an informal way, providing a diversionary approach without formal court proceedings. This can allow young people to avoid having a criminal conviction on their record, give victims the opportunity to have their say, and provide a more efficient resolution than pursuing a criminal conviction. Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) perform a key role in the delivery of CRs, yet there remains a significant gap in knowledge about how CRs are delivered with young people.
The research was driven by a 2021 HM Inspectorate of Probation (HMI Probation) report that found that the overall quality of casework for OOCDs was below that of court disposals, with an absence of standardisation of planning and delivery which resulted in inconsistencies between YOTs.
I have reproduced the flowchart from the report below to show that the CR process is complex, although similar in most areas.
I list some of the key findings of the report below.
- Participants suggested that most CRs were referred to the YOT. Nonetheless, there were examples given of police delivering CRs independently, despite local guidance and flowcharts detailing the CR (and broader OOCD) process.
- In some YOTs there was a clear policy that the police could deliver up to two CRs without YOT referral, but in these cases, it was common practice for YOT management and YOT police staff to be informed.
- There was national variation in the implementation and delivery of CRs. The types of offences eligible for a CR, the types of interventions delivered, and the length of the CRs differed across and within local authority areas.
- Participants suggested that there remained some ambiguity around the initial police communication about CRs to young people, parents, and victims.
- YOT police officers were the key stakeholders in liaising between the police and YOT workers. Where the referral practice was reported as good or improving (i.e. where all or most CRs were being referred into the YOT), it was typically the YOT police officer who was connecting and delivering the knowledge exchange between the YOT and the police constabulary.
- Participants highlighted the increased use of Outcome 22 as an alternative police option to CRs. It was described as a preferred option in some cases due to its flexibility as a less formal outcome.
- Participants highlighted that YOT caseloads increasingly included young people who presented more complex needs and higher risks of harm. This presented a key barrier to the effective implementation and delivery of CRs, and their ability to fully address the underpinning principles guiding the CR process of ‘child first’, ‘trauma-informed’, and ‘restorative’ practice.
- Participants suggested that the motivation of the young person to comply with the CR was key when it came to engagement. Additionally, concerns were raised regarding the voluntary nature of CRs, as well as the impact they have, particularly in cases where multiple CRs were given to an individual.
- The young people themselves spoke positively about the impact of CRs on their thinking and behaviour, but also raised feelings of frustration with what they perceived as repetitive sessions.
- The lack of published data on CRs remains a significant gap to understanding their use and effectiveness.
The lack of published data is clearly an important finding. Given the concerns about the disproportionate focus of Stop and Search on young people of colour, it would seem important for a comprehensive data set on community resolutions including ethnic monitoring data to be publicly available.