Role Title: Volunteer Community Panel Member

Purpose of Role: To work with other Panel Members and Youth Justice Workers to devise bespoke programmes of work to address young people’s offending behaviour. To communicate the content of those contracts in writing to, and in terms easily understood by, young people, their parents and carers.

Liaison: Business Support Officer/ Senior Statutory Officer

What are Youth Offender Panels?

Youth offender panels are led by volunteer Community Panel Member (CPM) and it is a meeting where young people that have offended and received a Referral Order, their parents/carers, victims of crime and members of the community have the opportunity to come together to discuss the offence that took place, support young people to take responsibility for their own actions and create a tailor made individual contract to support the young people to repair some of the harm caused through the offence/s and reduce their likelihood of offending in the future.

A Youth Offender Panel consists of two trained volunteers from the local community (volunteer Community Panel Members), alongside one member of the YJS. The panel will meet with the young person, and their parents/carers, to talk about what happened and the impact of the actions on the victim/s or community. The CPM are then required to support the young person to create a tailor- made and individual contract aimed at repairing some of the harm caused (through participating in activities such as supporting the work of a community project or writing an apology letter) as well reducing risk of further offending (through participating in victim awareness programmes or substance use work).

The contract is supervised by the YJS but reviewed (generally on a three-monthly basis) by the CPM at review panel meetings. In cases where the young person fails to comply, the CPM must evaluate and consider, with the YJS returning young people back to Court, where an extension to their Referral Order or a different sentence may be given.

Volunteers need to be 18 years old or over and may spend about three hours a fortnight working on the panel. Panel meetings generally take place after school/work although where appropriate they can also take place during day time.

If you decide to become a panel member, you’ll receive specific training on, for instance, how panels work and your role in the process; restorative justice and communication.

What is a Referral Order?

A Referral Order is a Court Order which can only be given to young people that are aged (or committed the offence) 10-17 years. A Referral Order can only be considered if the young person pleads guilty to all or at least one of the offences for which they are presented to the Court. The majority of young people that are eligible to be considered for a Referral Order at Court are young people who plead guilty to a first Court conviction. However, the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and
Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, has increased the conditions under which a Referral Order may be
suitable for young people.

A Referral Order can be between three to 12 months, depending on the seriousness of the crime and this is decided by the Court and is non-negotiable. As stated above, a Youth Offender Panel consists of two trained volunteers from the local community (volunteer Community Panel Members),
alongside one member of the YJS.

The Referral Order process is one which is underpinned by Restorative Justice, highlighted by the fact that young people must plead guilty to the offence, as well as by the process itself where the victim is placed at the centre of the process itself. To this end, victim/s are supported to engage in the Referral Order process or in restorative meetings outside of the Referral Orders. This will be decided by the victim/s themselves, where possible.

Why become a Panel Member?

Being a Youth Offender panel member is a challenging yet rewarding role. It is also a role that can positively impact the lives of young people, their parents/carers and victims of crime. The role can support young people to decrease their involvement in criminal or anti-social behaviour, increase positive relationships with their parents/carers and support victims of crime to be heard.
It makes no difference where you come from or what you do, as long you are over 18 years old and are willing to make a difference in your community. Please be aware that due to the nature of the role, each volunteer will be subject to an enhanced DBS check. If you are interested in becoming a panel member, please contact us at yjsvolunteering@ealing.gov.uk.