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Crime-fighters get together.

Byline: Andrew Hirst ,

helping justice At the conference are (from left) Calderdale volunteer Adam Wallace, regional manager of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales Malcolm Potter, Supt Ian Whitehouse, head of community safety for West Yorkshire Police, and Richard Smith, Kirklees Youth Offending Team manager

Volunteers meet for conference

VOLUNTEERS who help to steer youngsters away from a life of crime held a conference in Brighouse.

The event was attended by 80 volunteers involved with Youth Offending Teams throughout West Yorkshire.

The delegates talked about how they could improve their work with young offenders, their families and victims of crime.

Most young offenders appearing in courts for the first time are sent to a Referral Panel, which is made up of the volunteer and a Youth Offending Team officer.

They consider the crime and its consequences and hear directly from the offender and the victim or the victim's representative.

At the end of the meeting a contract is drawn up so the offender has to agree to stay out of trouble and give something back to the victim, even if it's only a letter of apology.

The contract is reviewed by the panel and persistent breaking of the contract results in the young person being returned to the Youth Court.

About 1,800 young offenders are dealt with across West Yorkshire this way each year and there are more than 200 volunteer panel members countywide.

Most young people do not re-offend.

The conference was organised as part of Inside Justice Week, when criminal justice agencies open their doors to the public to improve understanding and confidence in the criminal justice system.

Richard Smith, head of the Youth Offending Team in Kirklees, said: "I can think of nothing that improves public confidence more than by taking justice back into the communities most affected by crime and bringing offender and victim together around a table.

"Youth Offending Teams and Referral Panels are at the forefront of repairing some of the damage caused by youth crime, holding young people accountable for their actions, giving victims a voice in the process and answers to their questions and giving all concerned the opportunity to move on."

* More volunteers are needed. For details ring Alastair Whitelaw on 01484 414713.
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Nov 27, 2006
Words:375
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