Information on referral orders
What is a Referral Order?
The referral order was been introduced by the Government in 2002 to prevent offending by young people between the ages of 10 and 17 years.
A young person, who comes before the Magistrates’ Court, and is pleading guilty to the offence can be referred to a youth offender panel.
The length of the order will be set by the magistrate and will depend on the seriousness of the offence.
What is a Youth Offender Panel?
As you have been given a referral order, you will be referred to a Referral Order Panel.
A panel of three people – two from the local community and one from the Youth Offending Service will work with you to agree a plan of action. The views of the victim (if there is one) or those affected by the offence will also be heard. Your parents (or other supporters) will also have an opportunity to have their say.
These panels are special, because they involve local people who work with the young person, their parents and victims. Panel members will talk and listen to all those present and agree with the young offender a plan of action. This plan is designed to put right the harm already done and prevent future offending.
What will happen first?
An officer of the Youth Offending Service will visit you at home a few days after you appear in court. The reason for the visit is to find out more about you and your circumstances and needs.
You will be given a date for a panel meeting and told where it will be held. If you are under 16, your parent or guardian must attend the meeting as well. The court may order that they attend, even if you are over the age of 16. As well as your parents or guardians, you are allowed to bring someone else who is aged 18 or over with you to the panel meeting, such as another family member or your teacher or social worker. You must inform the Youth Offending Service if you want anyone to attend so that arrangements can be made.
What will a Youth Offender Panel do?
The panel meeting will be much less formal than a court, but you are still expected to treat everyone with respect.
The Panel will consist of the two community members and a Youth Offending Services officer. The victims of your offence may also be present. The Youth Offending Services officer will talk to you about this when they visit you at home.
If the victim attends the panel meeting, there will be an opportunity for them to say how they feel about the offence and what they would like to happen as a result. If the victim chooses not to attend their views will be reported to the panel. You and your parents (or supporter) will also be asked about what happened and how you feel about it.
The panel will listen to what you and others have to say, and then agree with you what you should do. Together you will agree an action plan, “the contract”, that will involve making good some of the harm done to the victim and will include activities to help prevent you from offending again. It could include:
- Writing a letter of explanation
- Carrying out some practical work for the victim or the local community, to help put right some of the harm done. This is called reparation
- A special programme of support to help you stop offending. It might deal with difficulties you may have (such as not getting the most out of school, or drug or alcohol misuse).
What will happen during the contract?
When you have agreed a contract of activity with the panel, you will be expected to complete it during the length of your Order. The Youth Offending Services, together with your parents and supporters will help you successfully complete the contract.
During your contract an officer of the Youth Offending Service will visit you regularly. The number of visits per month will depend on the level of intervention you need. You must not be drunk or under the influence of drugs when you meet with this officer, or when you attend your reparation activities.
If you fail to keep appointments, or fail to attend Panel meetings, you will be referred back to the Magistrates’ Court to be re-sentenced.
Every three months you will be asked to attend another panel meeting to review your progress.
What will happen if I complete the contract?
Successful completion of a contract means that you will not have a criminal record. If the contract is not completed, the youth offender panel can refer you back to the court for another sentence. This means that you will have a criminal conviction on your record.
If you have any questions on this process, or if you wish to make a complaint at any time, please ring the Youth Offending Service on 01495 768300.