Youth Conference Service praised for progress on implementing inspection recommendations

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has praised the Youth Conference Service for the work it has carried out in the last two years to substantially progress the majority of recommendations made by the inspectorate in its original inspection report.

“CJI published its first inspection the Youth Conference Service (YCS) which is a division of the Youth Justice Agency in February 2008. At that point, Inspectors made 14 recommendations aimed at improving the Youth Conference Service,” said Brendan McGuigan, Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
 “We were delighted to find that when Inspectors recently returned to the organisation to review progress, eight of the recommendations had been completed and a further four recommendations were likely to be fully implemented in the very near future,” he said.
The key recommendation which called for a system wide review of current practices within youth offending had been completed. This recommendation was aimed at developing a clearer, more integrated system with restorative practice at its core.
“This follow-up review of the original inspection found that the review of services had resulted in a close partnership being developed between the YCS and the Probation Board for Northern Ireland,” said Mr McGuigan.
As a result, a two-year priority youth offending pilot that places restorative practice at its core has been developed. The pilot project involves YCS and Probation Board staff working alongside one another in the greater Belfast area to deal with young people who are viewed as the most challenging in terms of the offences they have committed and their re-offending behaviour.
Implementation of other recommendations was found to have secured appropriate training for YCS staff who deal with sexually offending behaviour and better provision of information to conference coordinators to enable them to formulate effective conference plans for young people.
The Deputy Chief Inspector however said he would have wished to see progress being made in relation to victims and YCS staff being made aware of the reasons why directing lawyers in youth cases had recommended a particular course of action.
“This is an issue which CJI will be looking at in the future when it undertakes an inspection of the giving of reasons and communication with victims and witnesses as part of its 20010-11 Inspection programme,” said Mr McGuigan.