Diversion in English and
Dutch Juvenile Justice
LORAINE GELSTHORPE, MIKE NELLIS, JEANNETTE BRUINS, AND ANNELIES VAN VLIET
Diversion has been a dominant thrust in juvenile justice policy for the past twenty-five years in England and Wales as well as in the Netherlands. In England, we can see the concept of diversion in embryonic form in the nineteenth-century debates about the establishment of separate institutions and courts for juvenile offenders.1 The 'child savers' sought to promote the welfare of children by diverting them from the heavy-handed criminal courts, the more formal court procedures, and contaminating gaols. At the same time, reformers sought to divert 'pre-delinquents' from a career of crime, by inculcating 'appropriate' moral and religious values in children.2 The concept of diversion employed in twentieth-century debates is no less complicated, though ironically, the aim in the past twenty-five years has been to keep juveniles out of the earlier systems of justice and welfare specially created for their reception.
What is common to both England and Wales and the Netherlands is that developments in diversion owe much to the impetus given by the USA in drawing attention to the idea that the existing juvenile justice systems were not effective in changing juveniles' behaviour. Moreover, the systems themselves seemed to be promoting an inescapable paternalism which circumvented legal protections to be afforded to young people.
To set the scene, we should note that in both the English and Dutch juvenile justice systems we can recognize elements of broadly similar theoretical models. That is, a 'welfare' model on the one hand, and a 'justice' model on the other. In essence, the welfare model symbolizes 'protection, help, and treatment' whilst the justice model emphasizes proportionality between crime and punishment and is akin to 'just deserts' principles currently espoused in contemporary penal debates. Indeed, it____________________