Confidence and Credibility: Magistrates and Youth Offending Teams Within the Youth Courts in England and Wales

Published 17/03/2010
Type Article
Author(s) Lucy Ivankovic
Corresponding Authors

One of the effects of 2004 National Standards (Youth Justice Board 2004) appears to have been that greater emphasis is now placed upon timely and efficient administration, rather than the content and quality of options presented in the youth court by Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), (Smith, 2007). This is partly to do with the constantly changing agenda for YOTs (Thomas, 2008), and the resulting confusion of professional identity for many YOT staff (Souhami, 2007). Without the clear commitment to children’s rights YOTs have become susceptible a variety of influences affecting decision making in court, not least the punitive intolerance described by Muncie and Goldman (2006), prevalent within youth justice since the 1990s. This can mean that YOTs have a confident, but collusive relationship with magistrates, rather than providing an independent voice within the court. This article argues that YOTs need to develop a confident relationship with magistrates, which does not compromise their integrity and primary commitment to the child’s best interest and their communities. Furthermore the development of such a relationship has the potential to modify the punitive culture of many youth courts.