Assisting young people aged 16 and 17 in court

A toolkit for local authorities, the judiciary, court staff, police, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and service providers.

Appendix 4

Multi-Agency working: Examples of good practice

Youth Courts

The Evaluation of Hamilton and Airdrie Youth Court [70] identified as an area of good practice 'effective teamwork among the relevant agencies and professionals concerned. Good information sharing, liaison and communication appeared to exist across agencies and the procedures that were in place to facilitate the sharing of information seemed to be working well.' It is also noted as advantageous to have a lead co-ordinator who can pull together information from various agencies and take forward planning for the young person.

Other Multi Agency examples

Examples of current good practice include the establishment of local multi agency groups to agree and drive local initiatives - Grampian Youth Justice Development Programme, Lanarkshire Youth Offending Forum and Fife Youth Offender Management Groups. The latter two deal with under 16s but may provide models that could be extended to 16-17 year olds.

It is also an advantage to have a named person [71] from each agency to deal with issues relating to young people and their offending behaviour thereby facilitating joint discussions and planning, good communications and possibilities for joint development. There are opportunities at every point where decisions are made about young people's offending/alleged offending in the Hearing and/or Justice Systems to think creatively about joint working to improve the way young people are dealt with. For example, the areas in which Youth Courts operate have designated fiscals to mark the papers for young people and there is a nominated fiscal involved in the Grampian Youth Justice Programme.

Livingston - Civic Centre

All service providers are working in the same building; therefore, there is a multi-agency approach to working. Each young person is assigned a social worker and a support worker throughout the process and a Criminal Justice Assistant is permanently in court. If background information is required then information can be sought while the court is sitting - this usually involves someone from the relevant department, attending the court and speaking directly to the sheriff. This means the information is obtained immediately and there are no additional adjournments prior to sentencing.

Court Support Worker (Aberdeen Council)

As part of the Aberdeen 'Whole Systems' approach, a Court Support Worker is available to support young people and their family through the court process and to provide a link with other agencies including social work as required. This post is currently hosted by Sacro.

The Court Support Service provides an independent worker, maintaining a visible presence within the courts. Essentially their role is to provide support, guidance and assistance to young people going through the court process. The worker also acts as an intermediary between the Youth Justice Social Work team, Procurator Fiscal, defence agents, Sheriff Clerk and any other relevant court personnel.

For those who have been held in custody, the Court Support Worker visits the young person in the court in the morning, attempting to engage with them. This allows the court process to be explained and clarified, stressing the significance of attendance at all dates that are set by the court. Further to this, the Court Support Worker will answer any questions that they may have and offer any assistance required.

If the young person engages, the Court Support Worker will obtain background information concerning their personal circumstances; with the view to identifying areas of need and signpost them to partner agencies and setting up initial appointments, if appropriate.

The Court Support Worker would then attempt to be present in court when they appear before the Sheriff making note of the disposal. They will subsequently write to them, as a reminder to attend court on the given dates, reminding them of the importance of good behaviour in an attempt to prevent reoffending. Finally, providing contact details and offering any further assistance.

If the Sherriff requests a Criminal Justice Social Work Report the Court Support Worker will contact the relevant Social Work service and try to get an appointment which can be passed on to the young person before they leave court that day. This is of benefit to the young person, court officials and social work staff. The Court Support Worker can also meet with any young person already working with social work if they know that they are due to appear in court. This provides them with an opportunity to build a relationship with the young person before they attend court which helps to provide the right support required on the day.

Once the 'alternative to remand' service is operational the Court Support worker will work alongside the Social Worker in court to assess young people's suitability for supervised bail and an alternative to remand package.

The setting up and oversight of the post is undertaken through regular reference group meetings with appropriate agencies including Sacro, Youth Justice Social Work, Criminal Justice Social Work, Procurator Fiscal, Sheriff Clerk and police. The service seeks feedback from young people and partner agencies to ensure that it is able to adapt to meet need and ensure that information is shared in the best way at the right time.

Support to Young Person

It is felt that the Court Support Service ensures that support is offered continually to every young person that comes into contact with the service.

A summary of the services offered:

  • Information about the court process, answering any questions that may arise;
  • Support and guidance through the court process;
  • Identifying areas of concern and signposting to relevant services;
  • Providing a reminder of court dates and attempting to convey the severity of attendance;
  • Assistance in between court dates in order to prevent re offending.
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