Youth Crime, Referral Orders and Restorative Justice: A Qualitative Evaluation of the Use and Success of Referral Orders as a Restorative Approach in Youth Justice

Alex Newbury

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    Referral orders were introduced in 2002 as part of New Labour’s first youth justice reforms, for young offenders pleading guilty at their first appearance before the court. The thesis evaluates whether referral orders are, firstly, a genuinely restorative disposal and, secondly, ‘successful’. It accomplishes this by: (1) providing a critical review of the literature on restorative justice and considering how this fits with historical and current approaches to youth crime and the punishment/welfare debate; (2) reporting on the author’s empirical findings from 41 panel observations and 55 interviews with 41 young offenders. The thesis finds that although referral orders utilise some restorative processes by the use of panel meetings, inclusion of reparation in the contract and attempt to involve victims in the process, there are significant barriers to truly restorative outcomes. These include lack of court and YOT discretion in utilisation, low victim involvement and few hours of reparation being undertaken. The concept of success in relation to referral orders is found to incorporate three main strands: (1) achieving New Labour’s aim of preventing offending; (2) achieving New Labour’s goals for restorative justice, defined as ‘restoration, reintegration and responsibility’; (3) achieving the more finely-nuanced aspirations for restorative processes and outcomes, as defined by restorative justice proponents. Although the transformative results achieved by restorative justice in other jurisdictions impressed New Labour, which made a genuine attempt to incorporate restorative practices into the criminal justice system, the government missed much of the strength and potential of restorative justice ideology. The thesis argues that restorative justice requires more than including a few, restorative processes into an existing punitive system, reducing offending or even repairing harm. It argues that restorative justice should be perceived in a broader sense, and as a transformative approach to youth crime, which introduces proactive approaches to the significant and deep-rooted personal, welfare and educational needs of young people via social and community interventions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Sussex
    Award date1 Jul 2008
    Publication statusUnpublished - Feb 2008

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