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Through the young offender lens : capturing experiences of restorative justice

O'Mahoney, Joanne Ruth Holland (2007) Through the young offender lens : capturing experiences of restorative justice. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94561) (KAR id:94561)


Significant world-wide interest in restorative justice has resulted in reforms to the youth justice system in England and Wales, which include restorative features. The most explicitly restorative of these reforms is the referral order. Hitherto, evaluations of restorative justice initiatives have tended to focus on quantitative analyses based on reoffending rates, number of referrals and cost effectiveness, or structured questionnaire surveys with limited opportunities for participants to express their feelings about the process. Using ethnographic methods this research documents young offenders’ experiences of undertaking a referral order, with the main aim of assessing how far the referral order fits the theoretical framework underlying restorative justice. This research aims to add to existing theoretical and methodological debates and provide an additional source of information for policy makers and practitioners.

Drawing on data gathered from observations and semi-structured interviews with practitioners and young people, the research explores the strengths and weaknesses of the way the referral order is being implemented, through the key restorative justice principles of stakeholder involvement, relationship building and repairing the harm done by crime. It finds that the referral order holds the potential to be a restorative approach to crime, but that there is a need to restructure the relationship between justice agencies and local communities. Young people report positive experiences of restorative panel meetings, but I suggest that young people need a more supportive environment in order to engage in a meaningful dialogue, and that the presence of a victim significantly increases their ability to empathise and express remorse. I argue that the criminal justice system’s retention of its coercive role, together with punitive indirect reparation activities, jeopardises restorative principles and values.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94561
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2023 15:26 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 15:26 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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