Formal contact with the criminal system through prosecution and court processes will inevitably be very damaging to children. Prosecution can result in a criminal record and there is a very considerable risk of trauma and negative effects on mental health and well-being. The experience of being within the criminal justice system can have a ‘tainting effect’ making it more, rather than less, likely that the child will re-offend. Article 40 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) places a duty on the Welsh Government to promote measures for dealing with children who commit criminal offences, ‘without resorting to judicial proceedings.’
Diversion, also known as diversionary measures and out-of-court disposals, diverts children away from the criminal justice system and should always be considered when a child is arrested. All areas should have diversionary schemes and measures in place and be actively looking to offer these to care-experienced children – and to care-experienced young adults.
While the offer of youth diversion is an effective alternative to receiving a statutory out of court disposal, such as a caution or conditional caution (both of which appear on a criminal record) or going to court, it can be a confusing and overwhelming experience for children and their carers, particularly since what is on offer varies between areas.
This short video has been created with children in mind, and details what diversion is, the benefits it offers and what the process involves. The video was created and designed by Reality Art, a collective that specialises in capturing the voices of young people who have experienced the criminal justice system through art, in collaboration with the Centre for Justice Innovation.
Always speak to a specialist youth justice lawyer about diversion when a child in your care has been arrested. It will also be helpful to make contact as soon as possible after the arrest with your local youth justice service for advice and to find out what is available in your area.