Referral Orders came in to force on the 1 April 2002. The vast majority of young offenders appearing in court for the first time and pleading guilty are sentenced to a Referral Order for between three months and one year.
The only exceptions are very minor cases or if the court passes a custodial sentence or hospital order. If a young person receives a Referral Order they will be required to attend a Youth Offender Panel.
Panels are made up of at least two trained volunteers from the community and a member of the Youth Offending Service.
The offender is expected to agree a 'contract' with the panel and if appropriate, the victim. The young person is supervised by a member of the Youth Offending Service and has to attend further panel meetings during the term of their order.
If the young person is under 16 years old, their parents or carers are required to attend. Victims are also invited to attend and take part. If the young offender fails to agree a contract or fails to abide by it during the term of the order, the case is referred back to the court for re-sentencing.
Referral Order Panels are based on the principles of restorative justice:
All the above is discussed at the panel meeting and included in the contract.