Finland “holds the key” to tackling youth offending

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Sarah Young: Delivered findings at Includem staff conference.

Youth charity sees benefits of mediation during visit to Nordic nation. 

2nd December 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Adapting the Finnish model of mediation could be key to keeping young people out of jail, according to youth support charity Includem.

The charity’s Sarah Young recently visited the Nordic nation on a fact-finding mission where she was shown how mediation can help both victims and offenders while also reducing the need for prison sentences.

The three-day visit included a session at the Helsinki Mediation Office where Ms Young learned that all “non-serious” crimes come through mediation before reaching prosecution. 

Two-thirds of criminal cases – with the exceptions of sexual offences and serious crime - are sent to mediation, with 89% of those leading to an agreement, most commonly an apology to the victim and monetary compensation. 

”The process has benefits for victims, perpetrators and wider society,” said Ms Young, a youth worker in Dundee.

”Victims have a chance to talk about the consequences of crime, don’t have to through the often anxious process of a trial and gives them fast access to compensation. It also gives perpetrators the chance to hear about the consequences of their actions and the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions.”

Includen highlighted figures which the charity says show the success of mediation. Although Scotland and Finland have very similar population sizes, the Nordic country has just 3,000 people in prison compared to Scotland’s 8,062.

The difference in dealing with young people is even starker, with 400 plus people aged under than 18 in jail in Scotland compared to just eight in Finland. 

Ms Young added: “The benefits to society overall of keeping young people out of jail are enormous; it gives offenders the chance to turn their life around and become productive members of society, rather than writing them off before they have even reached adulthood.

“There really is a lot to learn from this model in dealing with hard to reach young people. It was really inspiring seeing what can be achieved by this type of approach and I’ll certainly be looking to adapt some lessons learned in my work with young people in Dundee.”

The visit has resulted in Includem forming a link-up with Aseman Lapset, or Children of the Station, a project working with hard to engage young people, to look at ways each organisation can learn from each other.