• Children first, offenders second: an aspiration or a reality for youth justice in Wales

      Thomas, Susan (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2015)
      England and Wales have the same criminal justice system, but devolution in Wales has created some differences between the two countries. In Wales all child and young person related services, with the exception of youth justice, are devolved to the Welsh Government. It is claimed by some that devolution has resulted in youth justice policy in Wales diverging from that of England. This is because of the Welsh Government’s adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been incorporated into its domestic legislation. This is not mirrored in England, as the UK Government’s youth justice policies during the New Labour period have been characterised as punitive, risk-led and managerialist. Although attitudes and approaches changed during the Coalition Government’s administration, the fundamental features of the system have not. Youth justice in Wales has been described as taking a ‘children first, offenders second’ approach to children and young people in trouble with the law, which by inference suggests the opposite for youth justice in England. The purpose of this study is to examine whether there is a different youth justice in Wales. This was done by scrutinising a range of evidence that included the policies of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales and the Welsh Government and the interface and relationship between them, to determine what youth justice in Wales looks like and how it compares to youth justice in England. This was supported by an analysis of YJB data about the operation of the system, which disaggregated information about Wales from national statistics, to establish if outcomes for young people in Wales differed from their counter-parts in England. Finally, the perspectives of practitioners in two youth offending teams in England and two in Wales were explored to establish what their practice cultures looked like and the extent to which practitioners had similar or different views about how the system should and does operate, whether a ‘children first’ philosophy is dominant in Wales and how this relates to the policy positions of the respective governments.
    • A comparative study of beekeeping as an intervention with troubled young people

      Tierney, Patrick (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2012-10)
      “Although they make up only 11 per cent of the population above the age of criminal responsibility (in England and Wales), in 2009, people in this age group were responsible for 17 per cent of all proven offending” (NAO, 2010:5). Sadly, 56 per cent of these young people are likely to re-offend within one year (NAO, 2010). These trends are not unique; they are common to many countries worldwide (e.g. De Gusti et al, 2009). Arguably then, current government strategies that aim to reduce recidivism including custodial sentences, are not working (Clarke, 2011). However, terms such as ‘criminal offence’ and the age criteria for criminal responsibility vary widely in their definitions between and within countries. Furthermore, reasons why young people re-offend emerge from complex and multi-dimensional needs and risk factors, which themselves vary over time. Attempts at correlations and comparisons are therefore inevitably contentious. Interventions perceived as most effective at reducing recidivism focus on multi-systemic approaches to changing behaviours (e.g. DfES, 2006). This research and its findings, contributes towards a better understanding of these multi-dimensional factors. This report presents outcomes from a mixed-methods, ethnographic, comparative research project in relation to a four-day intensive outdoor experiential education programme. For the purposes of this report, the programme is called ‘Bee Inspired’ and is specifically for young people defined as ‘at risk’ of offending or re-offending. Bee Inspired is unique because it involves the participants’ immersion in learning the practical skills of beekeeping. The research was based in three countries: the Azores islands (Portuguese-governed), Prince Edward Island, Canada and England, United Kingdom. During the programme, the participants were observed closely and their behaviour, experiences and comments recorded. Additional data were collected through written questionnaires and focus group sessions during and at the completion of the programme. The outcomes are presented using a method of written ‘vignettes’. This gives voices to the participants, whose perspectives, within research data, are often absent. This report provides evidence of their positive experiences of cognitive, social and emotional development during the Bee Inspired programme; these being intrinsically linked to the programme’s objectives and the researcher’s theoretical and ontological perspectives. The findings were triangulated; qualitative and quantitative data support previous educational research and produces some new insights. The research tracked the progress of the participants twelve and eighteen months after the completion of the Bee Inspired programme. Out of 45 participants, only three participants re-offended within eighteen months; well below average and expected norms as defined in similar research. In addition to the low re-offending rates, many participants continued their beekeeping practices which in itself may contribute to the perceived success of the programme. In conclusion, although small-scale and limited in terms of scope and generalizability, this research illuminates the experiences of young people ‘at risk’ involved in experiential education. The complex and multi-dimensional nature of these experiences relate to individuals’ diverse needs. Further research into experiential education programmes is therefore required, in particular, investigations into why factors specific to beekeeping could provide a way of reducing recidivism amongst some young people at risk.
    • Real bad girls : the origins and nature of offending by girls and young women involved with a county youth offending team and systemic responses to them

      Williams, Jeanette Deborah (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2009-10)
      Amidst growing concerns about a rise in girls entering the Youth Justice System and official data highlighting increases in girls violent offending this doctoral thesis focuses on girls in the Youth Justice System. Drawing on case files and in depth interviews with a cohort of girls supervised by a Home Counties Youth Offending Team (YOT), and interviews with YOT practitioners it explores their needs and offending patterns and examines contemporary system responses to them. It aims to contribute to practice knowledge and understanding about girls offending, and to identify approaches and interventions most likely to be effective with them. Findings point to girls having multiple and interrelated needs and troubled backgrounds. Exclusion from school and non attendance, experience of severe family conflict and violence, heavy alcohol use and poverty and disadvantage are all cited as key risk factors for girls’ involvement in offending and other types of behaviour which can lead to social exclusion. Minor assault and the influence of alcohol emerge as key features in girls offending patterns. Assaults commonly arise from disputes with friends or family members, or occur whilst girls are in a mixed peer group where assaults are perpetrated against another young person or a Police Officer. The impact of more formal responses by Police and YOTS are evident and show that the highly regulated and male oriented Youth Justice System hampers the likelihood of successful interventions with girls. This study cites the importance of gender specific responses and interventions which are holistic, informal and flexible to meet the distinct needs and offending patterns of girls in the Youth Justice System. More widely early identification of girls at risk, information sharing across children, health and adult services, and the provision of a range of support and positive opportunities to girls which extend beyond the life of a Court Order are identified as key aspects of strategies aimed at improving future outcomes for girls.