A decade of progress in Scottish youth justice will be celebrated at the National Youth Justice Conference this month.
Mark McDonald MSP, Minister for Childcare and Early Years, will give the welcome address at the conference, which is organised by the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ), the National Youth Justice Advisory Group (NYJAG) and the Scottish Government.
The conference, which is the biggest youth justice event in Scotland, will bring together speakers and delegates at Stirling University on June 21 and 22 to consider the theme of ‘Youth Justice: Past, Present and Future’.
Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald, said:
“We want Scotland to be the best place to grow up, and we won’t write off children and young people because of early childhood mistakes. Ten years ago we made a bold shift to prevention and it paid off, with a huge reduction in youth crime, which has brought real results for victims, communities and young people.
“Today we are publishing a report detailing the progress we have made over the last two years through our youth justice strategy. Partnership working is key to our successes and the National Youth Justice Conference is a valuable opportunity for people to come together to reflect on the past and focus on the future.”
Claire Lightowler, Director of CYCJ, said:
“The past decade has seen significant improvements in how we respond to offending by children and young people in Scotland. There has been a shift towards early intervention, prevention and diversion, a focus on preventing offending in the first place and improving the journey from involvement in offending to something more positive. We have seen the number of children referred to the Children’s Hearing System due to offending behaviour reduce by 83%, the number of children prosecuted in the courts down by 78% and the number of young men in Polmont down from 223 in 2008 to around 50 today.
“These are significant achievements which have been supported by a multi-agency commitment to intervening early in non-criminalising ways, improvements in school inclusion and diversion from formal justice systems wherever possible.
“This is all backed by growing evidence which shows that children involved in a pattern of offending, or who are involved in more serious offences, are almost always our most vulnerable, victimised and traumatised young people – and so if we are to address their offending behaviour, we need to respond to these underlying issues.
“Nevertheless, there remain significant issues in how we respond to children’s offending and the support available for those who are the most vulnerable in society. As the number of children in contact with the youth justice system reduces, those who we do support are even more likely to be those with the most complex lives, issues and adversities. There is always room for further growth, and that is why we are focusing on the past, present and future at our tenth conference, so we can work together to identify the best steps forward.”
This year the conference will welcome its first international speaker. Jan-Erik Sandlie, Depute Director of the Norway Correctional Service, will present on dealing with young offenders in Norway. He will be joined by early years research scientist Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, whose theories on attachment parenting have made headlines, Keith Gardner, Head of Analysis and Improvement at the newly formed Community Justice Scotland, and Fiona Lees, Chair of SOLACE Scotland who will give a local authority perspective.
Criminal justice academics Professor Bill Whyte (Edinburgh University) and Tim Chapman (Ulster University), who were speakers at the first youth justice conference, will offer their perspectives on the changes of the past decade.
KIN, an arts collective facilitated by Vox Liminis, will hold a panel discussion about young people’s experiences of familial imprisonment, whilst a range of workshops on subjects ranging from psychological trauma to online safety will give delegates the chance to discuss the key issues of the day.