A Youth Offending Team (YOT) is a statutory, multi-agency team that was set up following the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act with the intention of reducing the risk of young people offending and re-offending, and to provide counsel and rehabilitation to those who do offend. Youth Offending Teams engage in a wide variety of work with young offenders (those under 18) in order to achieve their aims. YOT's supervise young people who have been ordered by the court to serve sentences in the community or in the secure estate. Sometimes, teams organise meetings between offenders and victims to encourage apologies and reparation.
They also arrange for Appropriate Adults) to accompany under 17's after their arrest in order to advise and support the young person, and observe that they are treated fairly. When a youth is arrested and unaccompanied by an adult (relation or friend who is over 18), the station often calls the local YOT to request an appropriate adult to come to the relevant station.
All members of Youth Offending Teams have expertise in areas relevant to the care and rehabilitation of young offenders. These may include areas such as the Police Service, Probation Service, Social Services, the Health Service, Education, and Psychology.
Sometimes it can be useful for the education worker to offer a young person support with some particular aspect of his/her school work: study skills, coursework, or facilitating communication between the young person, the school, and the home. Education workers also arrange for the continuing education of young people who go into custody, particularly if they are still of school age. If possible, the workers ensure that the work done in school and custody are of equal content and quality.
School leavers also work with education workers if they need to acquire skills to apply for jobs, for example CV writing, form filling, interview advice and so on. Some educational workers also encourage young people to express their feelings in writing as a way to vent aggravation or to comprehend their difficult situation.
Meetings between psychologists and the young person, their family, and the victim(s) in any combination or separately, can be arranged with some Youth Offending Teams who have psychologists on staff. These meetings base themselves on the idea that a young persons behaviour and offending is linked to other problems in his life.
The meetings are informal and typically last an hour but can vary in length depending on the preference of the young person and psychologist. While these meetings are primarily for conversation, the psychologist will sometimes employ drawing or other tests to explore problems. Occasionally the psychologist will include other family members if relevant. Sessions with the YOT psychologist normally occur every two to three weeks.
Reports made by the psychologist on the young person are included in that persons file, along with any other relevant information pertinent to the case.
For relatively minor offences, the police issue a reprimand, not a criminal conviction, but the reprimand is made note of on police computer records and any further offending will result in a Final Warning. A young person who has received a Police reprimand is not required to undertake any work with the YOT, although this may sometimes be offered on a voluntary basis.
A final warning is a disposal used by the police without an young offender who admits their guilt having to appear in court. They are issued to offenders aged 10-17. A record is made of this on the Police National Computer system. A Final Warning on a person's record influences the decision of the courts and police if a further offence is committed.
It is the objective of the Youth Offending Teams to prevent young people offenders from reoffending after a Final Warning. They visit and assess young offenders and undertake diversionary work before (or after) the formal Final Warning is issued.
When an offender comes to Court for the first time and pleads guilty, the court issues a Referral Order. This order is designed to prevent further offending by that young person. The referral order refers the young offender to a Youth Offending Team and places the young person under their supervision for a period of 3-12 months. The Youth Offending Team will set up a Panel Meeting for Community volunteers to meet with the young person.
Community Panel Members try to agree a Referral Order Contract with the young person and their parent/carer, to prevent their further offending. Where victims of crime have agreed to attend or be represented, the victim will themselves be given the opportunity to speak about their feelings and how they have been affected. This might occur by audio, video, letter or face to face; the process is monitored by YOT team members. The contract agreed by the young person will include work on reparation to the victim(s).
At the Panel Meeting, the Community volunteers and a member of the Youth Offending Team will listen to the views of the young person regarding the offence. The views of witnesses, relatives, and the police may be represented in a report presented by the Youth Offending Team to Panel Members, and will be based on an interview with the young person and their parent/carer. Panel contracts will specify a range of programs for the young person in question. These contracts may include a letter of apology to the victims, community service, sessional training programs, or advice and support. The term of the Referral Order commences from the date signed by the young person.
If the young person fails to attend specified Panel meetings, this may lead to a reappearance in court. The violation of the contract will also lead to further legal action. Appointments and meetings must be kept. At the end of the program, the referral order is finished and the young person is released from the program. When this happens, the young person's conviction will be immediately "spent", meaning that they sometimes do not have to disclose it to employers etc.
Reparation orders can also be given by the court. A member of the Youth Offending Team, known as a Responsible Officer, is placed in charge of the reparation program, and will give support and advice for the offender.
During several appointments, the young person is expected to perform tasks to account for their actions. Reparation orders can last a maximum of three months, aiming to prevent re-offending and rehabilitate. As with other court orders, inappropriate actions (arriving for an appointments under the influence, using abusive language, violence, or non-cooperation) will lead to a written warning. Further infractions will lead to "breach action", at a further Court hearing.
A supervision order is designed to stop young people from re-offending; however it is a much stricter, and longer lasting order than a reparation. A Supervising Officer from the YOT is attached to the young person’s case and provides support and advice as the offender completes the referral and supervision order. As with the reparation order, appointments must be kept (once or twice a week for the first three months of the order, and then weeks for the second three months, and fortnightly after that) and the young person must maintain a respectful and cooperative attitude. When the order is at least half complete and if the young person has made good progress, the supervision order may be returned to the court for early revocation.
Like other orders, failure to comply at an acceptable level results in written warnings and then a further court appearance. In this second court appearance, the young person can be ordered to complete the program and issued with a fine, or resentenced for the original offence/s if the court feels it appropriate.