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Courts have available a range of sanctions for children short of custody. As noted earlier, the most commonly used is the referral order, an ostensibly restorative disposal that constitutes 40 %> of youth sentences. The YRO accounts for a further 29 % of disposals but the conditions imposed on children may differ significantly. In 2013/14, the most frequently imposed sanction was supervision which was attached to one-third of orders; curfew requirements, monitored by electronic tags, were also common (Ministry of Justice/Youth Justice Board 2015).

Two conditions of the YRO constitute a statutory alternative to incarceration and where the court considers that the statutory threshold for custody is satisfied, it must indicate why it did not consider such requirements appropriate if it imprisons the child. Intensive supervision and surveillance requires the child to participate in a minimum of 25 h activity per week and be subject to an electronically monitored curfew; intensive fostering involves the child being placed away from home with a specialist in foster care for up to 12 months where the court considers that the child’s offending is largely due to home circumstances. After piloting the latter, however, a failure of ongoing dedicated funding from the government meant that intensive fostering is no longer available in practice (Hart 2012).

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