Adverse peer pressure is a long‐established contributing factor in the explanation for youth crime. There is also some evidence that positive peer influence is capable of having the opposite effect. In the US, efforts are made to exploit this process in ‘teen courts’, a voluntary alternative to the traditional criminal justice system for younger offenders charged with less serious offences. The aim is to divert them from further involvement in offending. An adapted version of this model is being piloted in Preston, Lancashire, in restorative peer panels. Restorative justice is at the heart of this diversionary initiative for young people at risk of offending. This article, written by members of the evaluation team for the peer panel project, considers the principles, practice and impact of teen courts, and offers some thoughts on implications from the Lancashire pilot.
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