Diverting young people from prosecution: toolkit

Guidance for service providers on providing effective, tailored and appropriate interventions for young people who offend.

1. Introduction

What is Diversion?

Diversion from prosecution is a formal decision by the Procurator Fiscal. On receipt of a police report the Procurator Fiscal can choose to divert the young person to a local social work team or other service provider. The provider should have specific expertise in working with young people. The young person undertakes a programme and/or is directed to services tailored to their particular needs that are designed to deal with the underlying causes of their offending. Intervention in this way keeps young people away from the formal criminal justice process and gives them the opportunity to make positive changes at a crucial time in their lives.

Who should read this toolkit?

The guidance in this toolkit is for anyone who is involved in providing relevant diversion services for or in making decisions about young people aged 16 and 17 who offend, including:

  • Police
  • Procurators Fiscal in Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS)
  • Managers and practitioners in social work departments
  • Staff in voluntary organisations providing services relevant to diversion
  • Medical and nursing personnel
  • Education staff

What is this toolkit designed to do?

The aim of this toolkit is to offer guidance to service providers and decision makers on what they need to do to provide a more effective, tailored and appropriate intervention-in the form of diversion from prosecution- for young people who offend aged 16 and 17 years old. 2 It is part of the work to take forward the Reducing Reoffending Programme (the arrangements for implementing the Scottish Prisons Report published in July 2008) and is also linked to the Preventing Offending by Young People - A Framework for Action (a national strategy approved by Ministers in June 2008).

Research 3 and practical experience in the United Kingdom and elsewhere over the last 40 years have shown that involving young people who offend in the formal criminal justice system is often damaging for them and encourages further offending. It is also clear that offending behaviour by young people cannot be isolated from their personal circumstances and needs and that to focus solely on offending may not deal with the fundamental difficulties faced by these young people. Although 16 and 17 year olds subject to a supervision requirement are statutory children for the purposes of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, those who are not subject to a supervision requirement lie outside this definition. Nevertheless, this Toolkit recognises the status of all 16 and 17 year olds as children under Getting It Right For Every Child ( GIRFEC) 4 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC) and believes that this should be taken into consideration by those that make decisions and provide services for all those who are under 18 5 . Their status as children should be clearly acknowledged in decisions made about them and in the provision of services. Giving young people a real opportunity to address issues that are causing them difficulties offers them a route to a more positive and responsible way of life. This should also help to prevent re-offending.

This guidance should help in:

  • Reducing the number of 16 and 17 years old being prosecuted 6 .
  • Addressing problems and difficulties experienced by young people.
  • Reducing the risk of re-offending.
  • Promoting community confidence.


Email: youth.justice@gov.scot

Telephone: 0131 244 5443

Care and Justice Division
Scottish Government
Area 2-B North
Victoria Quay

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