Young people, crime and justice in Northern Ireland

Deena Haydon, Siobhan McAlister

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Many children and young people in conflict with the law in Northern Ireland have experienced living in poverty, truancy or exclusion from school, limited educational attainment, neglect or abuse within their families, placement in alternative care, drug or alcohol misuse, physical and mental ill-health. However, their lives are also affected by the legacy and particular circumstances of a society in transition from conflict. In addition to historical under-investment in services for children and their families, this includes discriminatory policing alongside informal regulation by ‘paramilitaries’ or members of ‘the community’ and community-based restorative justice schemes as an alternative way of dealing with low-level crime and ‘anti-social’ behaviour.

Following a Criminal Justice Review, the 2002 Justice (Northern Ireland) Act affirmed that the principal aim of the youth justice system is to protect the public by preventing offending by children’. Youth justice initiatives therefore encompass a range of responses: early intervention to prevent offending and the application of civil Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, diversionary measures (including community-based restorative justice schemes), non-custodial disposals for those found guilty of offences, and custodial sentences. While ‘policy transfer’ prevailed during periods of ‘direct rule’ from Westminster, the punitive responses to ‘sub-criminal’ and ‘anti-social’ behaviour introduced by the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act in England and Wales were resisted or not implemented in the same way in Northern Ireland.

This Chapter will critically analyse the debates informing recent developments, noting key issues raised by the 2011 review of youth justice initiated as a priority following the devolution of justice and policing to the Northern Ireland Assembly. It will focus on promotion and protection of the rights of children and young people in conflict with the law.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCriminal Justice in Transition: The Northern Ireland Context
EditorsAnne-Marie McAlinden, Clare Dwyer
PublisherHart Publishing, Oxford
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781849465779
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015


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