Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and Chairman of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee, has challenged the Alliance Justice Minister to ensure that the Youth Engagement Clinics, which are to be established in the police’s H District, “will have the necessary powers to deal effectively with the scourge of anti-social yobs”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is UUP Chief Whip, said while “it is vitally important that such clinics will be available in areas such as Ballycastle, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine and Larne by the end of November, it was equally important such clinics packed a legal punch against anti-social behaviour, and did not indulge in empty and meaningless rhetoric”.
Mr Swann’s challenge to the Minister after the UUP MLA asked the Minister if he agreed with those who said that those clinics can be an easy and soft option for young offenders.
Responding to Assemblyman Swann, Minister Ford said: “I assure Mr Swann that all the evidence is to the contrary.
“Many young people have said that they are being forced, at an early stage, to confront the consequences of their reoffending and, in many cases, to have a direct meeting with those whom the crimes were against.
“That is actually a more difficult task than waiting a few months and being given a fine or whatever.
“That is the whole point of the restorative approach that is taken in the youth justice system: it actually ensures that young people face up to the consequences of their behaviour, and they are then less likely to reoffend than if they were simply treated in a conventional way with a fine or whatever,” the Minister told Mr Swann.
Assemblyman Swann added: “Given the high levels of anti-social behaviour across the constituency, I will watch this process with interest to ensure that those people who find themselves subjected to these offences, believe that it is a beneficial system.”