1st Edition

Diversion in Youth Justice What Can We Learn from Historical and Contemporary Practices?

By Roger Smith Copyright 2018
    182 Pages
    by Routledge

    182 Pages
    by Routledge

    Diversion in youth justice is a subject of enduring interest. It concerns the processes by which decisions are made about whether or not to prosecute young offenders, and this book explores the continuing debates and historical developments which shape these processes. The treatment of young offenders is a contentious subject, and this book provides a comprehensive review of out of court decision-making in the context of wider arguments about how we should deal with the crimes of the young.

    This book follows a broadly historical structure, exploring the development of ideas and approaches to agency decision-making at the point of prosecution. This leads to the identification of a number of distinctive ‘models’ of diversion, reflecting both specific periods of time and particular philosophies of intervention with young people in trouble with the law. Based on this classification, this book explores the implications for wider debates about childhood, crime and punishment and how these relate to theories of social control. This, in turn, leads to the conclusion that diversionary ideas and practices act as a kind of barometer for wider developments in the governance of youth.

    This is one of the very few books that focuses exclusively on diversion as a feature of youth justice, and it provides a range of original and contemporary insights into this subject area which remains of considerable interest in this field, both academically and in practice. The ideas outlined here will contribute to new thinking in youth criminology, as the discipline responds to a prolonged period of apparent liberalisation in the treatment of young offenders which has yet to be fully understood or properly theorised.


    1. Theorising Youth Diversion

    2. The Origins and Emergence of Diversion

    3. Diversion: Development and Doubt

    4. Diversion Renewed

    5. Diversion, Dangerousness and the ‘Risky Child’

    6. Another ‘U’ Turn? Diversion and Community Justice

    7. Modelling Diversion

    8. Diversion and Youth Justice: Meanings and Possibilities




    Roger Smith is Professor of Social Work at Durham University, UK. As a practitioner, and in a senior policy role, he specialised in youth justice, and he has pursued this area of interest in his academic research and writing (including the well-known book Youth Justice: Ideas, Policy, Practice). He has also been involved in research and publications on a wider range of subjects, including childhood (A Universal Child), social work and power (Social Work and Power), participatory methods and social work education, and he retains a continuing interest in researching and promoting children’s rights in practice (Social Work with Young People).

    "Diversion is a vital and yet strangely neglected and often misunderstood concept in youth justice discourse. By reclaiming diversion and by historicising, theorising and applying the concept, Roger Smith makes an indispensable and timely contribution to youth justice scholarship. His book is rigorous, challenging and provocative. It sets an agenda for new thinking and it will be widely read."

    - Professor Barry Goldson, Charles Booth Chair of Social Science, Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, The University of Liverpool

    "Diversion in Youth Justice provides definitive overview of a key aspect of youth justice, bringing a critical, incisive and informed perspective to the subject and presented in Smith's inimitably accessible and dynamic writing style."

    - Stephen Case, Professor of Criminology and Director of Studies, Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University

    "Diversion in Youth Justice focuses on important questions:  why do we need to prosecute?  Why don’t we divert more children and young people away from a system if it is ultimately damaging to them? Or is diversion from formal prosecution a mistake? Analysing shifts in thinking about diversion across time, Roger Smith offers us an account which has, at its heart, a quest for progressive social and criminal justice for children and young people who find themselves in conflict with the law, concluding that diversion itself can be transformational. The author offers deep critical reflection and analysis and a book which is both candid and searching. An essential read!"

    - Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe, Director of the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge