Understanding extra-judicial responses to young people’s offending; out of court disposals and ‘diversion’ in social context
AuthorsO'Brien, Katy Diana
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AbstractThis thesis explores the use out of court disposals as responses to offending by 10–17 year olds, through analysing a case study of a diversionary practice in one local authority between 2012 and 2014. The case study is made up from mixed methods data from fourteen service user interviews and a focus group of six staff who had been involved in the delivery model, which included some visual methods. There is also some data from local authority systems that provides insight into the service contact patterns of the interviewees. The data is thematically analysed using a framework based on ecological systems from Bronfenbrenner (1979) and Bourdieu’s ‘thinking tools’ (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992). The work of France et al (2012), which proposed the notion of ‘political ecology’ as useful for understanding young people’s relationship with crime, is extended to provide a framework for understanding practice that diverts young people from prosecution. The thesis contributes to knowledge by showing how ‘diversion’ includes a range of practices whose operation can be understood in terms of Bourdieu’s social fields. This data challenges a traditional construct of ‘the system’ and suggests that the notion of system entry is unhelpful for understanding the experiences of young people. Some young people emerge as having contact with a wide range of services including social care and early help and thus they can be considered to already be system involved when this broader picture is considered. Thus a notion of ‘keeping them out’ of the system, as suggested at the focus group as a rationale for offering minimal service responses, was mismatched with their experiences and their needs. There is also critical discussion of how the practice of community resolution by police without involvement from young peoples’ services can be considered as a separate field of practice and is usually understood as being outside ‘the system’. Insight is gained into the ecological worlds of service users and this offers a sense of how diversionary processes are contextualised by a range of influences, which are analysed by applying the notion of political ecology. Many of these young people faced considerable social adversity and very minimalist responses in the name of diversion which produced a mismatch in terms of service offers and need. Bourdieu’s thinking tools are applied to promote critical reflexivity. The mismatch is relevant to understanding ideas of labelling and how this may be understood in terms of social interaction. Insight from the reflexive analysis shows how young people attribute varying levels of significance to receiving out of court disposals and related services which is affected by social context. It is suggested that to promote desistance clarity about disposals and relatability of responses need to be promoted. Also a sense of connectedness to others stood out as important to preventive processes. There are implications for policy and practice which include a need for joined up decision-making between police and young people’s services and relationship-based practice approaches for those young people with more complexity of need.
CitationO'Brien, K.D. (2019) ‘Understanding extra-judicial responses to young people’s offending; out of court disposals and ‘diversion’ in social context’. PhD thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire, in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Professional Doctorate Leadership in Children and Young People’s Services (Youth Justice)
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