How geographical and ideological proximity impact community youth justice (in)accessibility in England and Wales

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

Colleges, School and Institutes


Although the dramatic reduction in child criminalisation over the last ten years has been rightly celebrated (YJB 2019d), diminishing sectoral cogence represents an overlooked, unintended consequence. This chapter applies the interdependent concepts of geographical and ideological proximity to youth justice for the first time to demonstrate how structural inequalities and system injustices perpetuate (Phoenix 2016, Rekers and Hansen 2015, d’Este et al 2013). Robust justification should always be provided before subjecting children to vastly different treatment for criminal offences that are equally severe or prolific (Bateman 2011). The current diversification, dispersal and retraction of youth justice will be argued as requiring urgent policy attention due to a growth in varied accessibility and sentence completion barriers for children (Byrne and Brooks 2015, YJB 2010, 2019a, 2019c, LGA 2019). A new interpretation of youth justice institution types (Smyth and Hattam 2002) will reveal YOT accessibility support to be typical of inclusive and flexible ‘active’ institutions. This chapter argues such an approach to be optimal, and well aligned with the ‘exonerative turn’ (Brooks-Wilson 2019) within which contemporary ‘child first’ youth justice is seated (Smyth and Hattam 2002, Haines and Case 2015, Allars 2018). This chapter furthers the importance of youth justice accessibility using reanalysed empirical data from a research study that took place in 2012 - a moment when austerity was starting to impact the delivery of local services. 28 children and 33 practitioners were accessed in a project containing one pilot and two main case studies, with some of the most deprived neighbourhoods and highest community sentence non-completion rates in the country (DCLG 2011, MoJ 2012). Findings examine: the impact of geographical and ideological proximity on sentence accessibility and completion; problems accessing partner agencies that are not proximate; and youth offending team (YOT) facilitation of partner agency access. Despite active institutions being ideologically optimal, the lack of universality evidenced in this chapter presents new opportunities, with credible solutions achievable through policy innovation that avoids inequitable discretionary or punitive treatment (YJB 2014a 2014b, 2019d, SGC 2009). In particular, the removal of absence as a key example of ‘non-compliance’, removal of instance-based absence punishments, and introduction of minimum standards for accessibility will be suggested as supporting innovative, cogent youth justice (Davis et al 2016, Padley et al 2013, Brooks-Wilson 2019).


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Policy Review 32
EditorsElke Heins, James Rees, Marco Pomati
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Jan 2020


  • Youth justice, Accessibility, Children, Journeys, Proximity