Youth justice/criminal justice liaison: Example of good practice
North Ayrshire Pre appearance/ disposal practice
The Children & Families Area Resource Group will consider/ assist with criminal justice social work report disposals for all 16/17 year olds. When a report request is received by the Criminal Justice team for 16 and 17 year olds, arrangements are made to attend the local Area Resource Group. This is made up of staff from youth services, children and families and Action for Children. The purpose of this is to share knowledge of the young person and assist the report author in making an informed recommendation to the court about the disposal. If a community disposal is considered, an action plan can be devised and agreed at this meeting, with designated tasks being assigned.
A list of all known (to C&F Social Work) 16/17 year olds bailed is maintained, allowing support to be offered formally or informally depending on young person's status. A daily list of all custodies and disposals from reports (Kilmarnock sheriff) are circulated to Youth Justice staff, who check 16/17 year olds on bail and offer support where required. This can be advising of the court process or more practical support.
A support worker specifically targeting 16/17 year old is based in Kilmarnock Sheriff court. When a 16/17 year old is held in custody to appear at court the next day, the support worker is notified in the morning and coordinates the information flow between professionals. This worker is also available to support the young person at subsequent diets and compile any reports required.
A Court Social Worker completes a template with the 16/17 year old at the point the Sheriff asks for a criminal justice social work report. The process is explained and their consent is given. The template completed by court social worker is a dual process. It gives additional information to report author, such as contact details and availability and also explains process to young person, stressing the importance of cooperating.
At appearance the court note is produced. The court note allows all relevant information to be collated and facilitates an informed decision by the Sheriff, especially in cases where there has been much social work involvement. This process allows for central coordination, with strong links between Criminal Justice and Youth Justice Practitioners.
A Criminal Justice admin/ Children & families admin process has been developed to inform the Youth Justice lead officer when a criminal justice social work report has been requested. The report is completed and a copy sent to children & families admin/ youth justice lead officer to record onto their database.
If young people are known to youth justice workers, they are accompanied to all court appearances, this allows liaison with defence solicitors and assists in bail compliance being reviewed at the Area Resource Group. Having a professional worker in court provides an opportunity to share information with their solicitor and ensure that up to date and relevant information is passed to Sheriff. It can also stop young people behaving inappropriately in court, which can adversely effect the Sheriff's decision.
Other groups of young people are targeted in terms of a preventative support. For example the youth justice worker attends Throughcare/ Aftercare groups and local Children's Units to offer general advice/guidance regarding court processes. Having a point of contact for various areas of social services leads to a standardised practice.
Youth Justice workers proactively follow-up on self-referrals for young people, for example, where 16/17 year olds are not currently receiving formal inputs. These young people can be offered at the point of court appearances or other pick up points e.g. older accused when charged with a juvenile. The daily list of court disposals helps to target interventions where appropriate.
A range of awareness raising presentations have been undertaken with facility of faculty Advocator: district court: PF regarding support and interventions available to young people. The presentations aimed to raise awareness of resources available to court for young people. It was felt that solicitors are the people who need to understand what is available for that age group and a presentation seemed the best way to achieve this.
Police/ SCRA liaison procedures identity most concerning and or jointly reported young people speedily. Regular liaison meetings allow for the pooling of information and quick response to the most concerning young people.