The chair of the Youth Justice Board has accused the government of failing to act on its rhetoric about using restorative justice schemes for young offenders.
Rod Morgan told the conference that far more agencies should be involved in the schemes, where victims meet offenders face-to-face to decide how they should make amends in the community for their crimes.
Evidence from Northern Ireland’s use of restorative justice with young offenders seems to back its effectiveness.
Alice Chapman, director of the youth conference service at Northern Ireland’s National Youth Agency, said research by Queen’s University in Belfast had revealed that no young offenders who took part in the schemes had since gone into custody.
More than two-thirds of victims of crime had taken part in schemes, compared with just 13 per cent in England.
Eight out of 10 victims had preferred using restorative justice to traditional court processes, while nine out of 10 young offenders had expressed remorse.
But Chapman said it was “disgraceful” that children in care accounted for nearly one-third of all referrals to restorative justice schemes.