Volunteers needed to reduce Devon's youth crime

VOLUNTEERS from across Devon are being sought by Devon s youth offending team, to take part in a special panel to help tackle youth crime.

VOLUNTEERS from across Devon are being sought by Devon's youth offending team, to take part in a special panel to help tackle youth crime.

Youth offender panels are made up of local lay people who have responsibility for dealing with first time offenders in their local area.

The panels are already hugely successful in reducing crime and have been a resounding success in Devon.

New panel members are now being sought from all sectors of the community across the county, but particularly younger adults and men, who are under-represented on the panels.

The aims of the panel are to ensure young offenders take responsibility for their behaviour, help put things right for the victim and bring young people back into the law-abiding community.

Each youth offender panel will comprise two volunteer members of the local community and a professional from the local multi-agency Youth Offending Service whose role will be to advise the lay members of the panel.

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Youth Offender Panels deal with young offenders aged 10 to17 who have appeared at Youth Court for the first time and who have pleaded guilty. Magistrates will make a Referral Order which lasts from 3 to 12 months.

Youth offender panels will regularly review the progress of the young person throughout their Referral Order. Should the young person fail to complete any aspect of their Referral Order, the youth offender panel has the power to send the young person back to court.

Youth Offender Panel members need to be good listeners and able to interact with others. No formal qualifications are required, and the common skills they bring to the panel will come from their own lives and social experiences.

Councillor John Smith, Devon County Council's executive member for children and young people's services, said: "Youth offender panels were set up in 2002 as a completely new way of dealing with young people who commit crimes.

"Devon's youth offending service was one of the first to take this new approach and has received plaudits from the youth justice board for its successful work, and the programme is now being rolled out nationally.

"Youth offender panels are special because they involve working with young offenders, their parents or carers, and victims, and are a proven way to nip offending in the bud before it escalates, as well as making some good the harm done to the victim."

Full training, which begins on April 25, will help prepare the panel members for this interesting and worthwhile task. Initial training will be over a number of sessions. Once these have been completed, panel members will continue to receive regular training sessions to keep them updated of current legislation and developments.

Anyone who would like more information on the youth offender panels or would like to volunteer to be a member can contact Jenny Bleasdale on 01392 384978 or e-mail jenny.bleasdale@devon.gov.uk.