Blog: Bringing new models of youth justice to Hampshire
Published: 28 Mar 2018
Earlier this month, as 150 UK citizens rejoiced in the news they had become part of an esteemed and diverse family of Churchill Fellows, I was reflecting on the fifth anniversary of my own Fellowship. What a privileged and fulfilling five years it has been!
Back in 2013, as a Police Constable working within the youth criminal justice system, I had become convinced that there must be better ways of responding to the challenging and complex nature of youth offending. I felt that empowering young people from the community to be part of the solution and harnessing the positive aspects of peer influences could lead to better outcomes. So I set off to the USA on my Churchill Fellowship to learn about the concept of ‘Peer Courts’, where young people who have committed minor crimes are judged and sentenced by a jury consisting of other young people. My hope was to try and establish our own version in Hampshire on my return.
Travelling on my Fellowship was one of the best experiences of my life and even after five years, the connections, the people, the learning, and the feelings I experienced still influence me today. Although I was there to learn, I also found opportunities to share best practices from our own system, which were always well received.
Below: Mark speaks to students at Winston Churchill High school in the USA during his Fellowship
As was so beautifully portrayed in some of the most recent and popular films about Sir Winston Churchill, behind the great man stood some very great and supportive people. Being a Churchill Fellow is no different and, with support from a good number of great people, my Fellowship ambitions have been fully realised: I have put my learning into practice and successfully established the ‘Hampshire Community Court’.
Fittingly for the fifth anniversary of my Fellowship, the programme we established is now a sustained model and from this year operates in five different towns and cities across Hampshire. I have also been able to advise on and influence youth justice practices nationally.
Below: The Hampshire Community Court in session
The programme has worked with hundreds of children and their families, has involved a team of 50+ dedicated youth volunteers striving to make a difference to their peers and community, and has supported a substantial number of victims of youth crime. Across the programme, we still enjoy a high positive engagement rate from respondents (over 90%) and a relatively low re-offending rate of 10-15% one year after involvement in the programme. I am incredibly proud of everyone involved and am grateful for their belief in my recommendations.
It’s hard to fully articulate the impact my Fellowship has had, both on myself and others. The past five years have not been without sacrifices, difficulties and personal and professional challenges, but often I have been able to draw comfort and strength from Winston Churchill’s name, his words and legacy. It’s something very special which I believe will stay with me for the next five years and, hopefully, a lifetime.