The Right to Participation in Youth Justice Research

Published date01 December 2023
AuthorStefaan Pleysier,Ursula Kilkelly
Date01 December 2023
Subject MatterEditorial
Youth Justice
2023, Vol. 23(3) 263 –268
© The Author(s) 2023
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/14732254231208323
The Right to Participation in Youth
Justice Research
Stefaan Pleysier and Ursula Kilkelly
As editors of Youth Justice, we recently welcomed the growing number of manuscripts
that we receive and the journal’s increasingly wide and diverse reach, with contributions
from authors from different geographical and disciplinary backgrounds (Kilkelly and
Pleysier, 2023b: 5). More recently, we commended to contributing authors an approach to
youth justice that is rights-based, highlighting the importance to youth justice research of
the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Kilkelly and Pleysier, 2023a: 139). In this
editorial, we build on these approaches to advocate for research that is consistent with the
rights of the child (Lundy and McEvoy, 2012) and in particular, research that takes
account, in various ways, of the perspectives and experiences of children in conflict with
the law.
Perhaps more than elsewhere, researchers in this field are aware that empirical research
with youth justice-involved children and young people can offer opportunities for partici-
pation to those that are often voiceless and powerless within these systems (Smithson and
Jones, 2020: 349). Indeed, true participation in research with justice-involved children
and youth has a potential to democratize the research process ‘valuing lived expertise and
challenging power dynamics and social injustices’ (Smithson and Jones, 2020: 350;
Smithson and Gray, 2021; Smithson et al., 2021). However, true participation in research
is something that can ‘be both inspiring and daunting’. It is considered inspiring ‘because
of the meaningful collaboration it fosters with community co-researchers’, and daunting
‘due to its many challenges, from ethical to relational’ (Smithson and Jones, 2020: 350).
However, it is well established as a matter of international law that children and young
people have the right to express their views freely in all matters that affect them (CRC,
Article 12) and according to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, this requires that
children, especially those who are justice experienced, should be directly involved in
research and evaluation of the justice system (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child,
2019: 23). Building on the rights-based approach (Lundy and McEvoy, 2012), it is clear
that empirical research with justice-involved children and young people offers a possible
way towards the realization of this right to be heard and to participate in processes that
fundamentally affect their lives. At the same time, empirical research with justice-involved
children can face many challenges, possibly explaining why despite being a possible lever
1208323YJJ0010.1177/14732254231208323Youth JusticePleysier and Kilkelly

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