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Diversion, Rights and Social Justice

Smith, R.

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This article draws on historical understandings and contemporary models of diversion in order to develop a critical framework and agenda for progressive practice. The argument essentially revolves around the contention that typically diversionary interventions have been constrained by the contextual and ideological frames within which they operate. They have in some cases been highly successful in reducing the numbers of young people being drawn into the formal criminal justice system; however, this has largely been achieved pragmatically, by way of an accommodation with the prevailing logic of penal practices. Young people have been diverted at least partly because they have been ascribed a lesser level of responsibility for their actions, whether by virtue of age or other factors to which their delinquent behaviour is attributed. This ultimately sets limits to diversion, on the one hand, and also offers additional legitimacy to the further criminalisation of those who are not successfully ‘diverted’, on the other. By contrast, the article concludes that a ‘social justice’ model of diversion must ground its arguments in principles of children’s rights and the values of inclusion and anti-oppressive practice.


Smith, R. (2021). Diversion, Rights and Social Justice. Youth Justice, 21(1), 18-32.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 16, 2019
Online Publication Date Feb 3, 2020
Publication Date Apr 1, 2021
Deposit Date Dec 16, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 6, 2020
Journal Youth Justice
Print ISSN 1473-2254
Electronic ISSN 1747-6283
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 1
Pages 18-32


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (144 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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