He said the multi-agency team, which is led by the Isle of Man Constabulary, is continuing to make an important contribution towards enhancing community safety in the Island.
Work is focused on the prevention of offending and reoffending by children and young people. Statistics show that it has been instrumental in transforming young lives and reducing the number of victims of crime.
The Youth Justice Team’s (YJT) annual report for 2012-13, which includes 17 year olds for the first time, reflects an increase in the number of referrals – 412 compared with 340 the previous year – and provides examples of positive outcomes achieved through alternatives to prosecution such as restorative justice, referral schemes, cautions and final warnings.
The report, which will be released soon, also demonstrates the success that has been achieved in supporting young people to move into employment, education or work training placements.
Minister Watterson said: ‘The Youth Justice Team is helping to turn young people away from crime and set them on a path to being more productive members of the community. This work involves behavioural change rather than just quick-fix solutions and the team members should be commended for their excellent performance.’
He added: ‘They have achieved a reoffending rate below the UK average and prevented 85 young people from becoming dependent on benefits, with 60% still in work or education six months after their intervention. The Department of Home Affairs is focused on creating safer communities and protecting the Island's quality of life, and the Youth Justice Team plays a key role in that work.’
The YJT brings together professionals from various Departments of Government, including Home Affairs (Police and Probation), Health, Social Care and Economic Development. The aim is to have a positive impact on young people's lives by working to a philosophy of prevention, restoration and integration.
Crime is prevented or reduced by addressing the underlying reasons behind the offending behaviour – whether they are personal, family, social, educational, training, employment or health issues – and by pursuing earlier and more effective interventions.
The YJT ensures that young offenders face meaningful consequences that hold them accountable for the harm caused to victims and the wider community. A restorative approach is followed, with recommendations in line with the seriousness and persistency of the offending.
Work is also undertaken to integrate young people back into mainstream society. The results have been impressive, with the vast majority of young people referred to the YJT staying out of trouble and many making the move into employment, education or work training placements.
Tony Wild, a member of the Department of Economic Development and of the Department of Education and Children, commented: ‘The Department of Economic Development, through its Employment and Skills Group, is reaching out to all our young people, especially those who have additional social needs, to support them with mentoring, advice and accessing positive opportunities.
‘Everyone deserves the best chance in life and the team is here to help make this possible. Helping our young people is a co-ordinated exercise across the Departments of Government which is being delivered with considerable success.’
Minister Watterson concluded: ‘The Youth Justice Team should be applauded for their pioneering spirit in pursuit of restorative justice - something which is difficult for all participants, but which shows far better long-term results. Through early, targeted intervention, the Youth Justice Team is changing lives for the better, with positive benefits to young people’s employability, health and engagement in the community.’