Purpose: First, it is the intention of this paper to explore the impact of riskfocussed intervention on the lives of young offenders and young people defined to be ‘at risk’ of crime. Second, the paper considers ‘alternative perspectives’ and the prospect of a youth justice predicated upon the principles of informal justice, child-friendly values and the notion of inclusion. Design/methodology/approach: The first part of the paper reviews the theory and literature on early-preventative intervention in the youth justice system. The second part of the paper explores ‘alternative perspectives’, drawing on restorative justice, restorative approaches and diversionary measures. Findings: The paper presents three general findings. First, young people can be subject to youth justice intervention without a ‘presenting problem’ or offence committed. More pertinently this form of pre-emptive criminalisation violates the child’s human rights, due-process and legal safeguards. Second, young people who are drawn into the net of formal youth justice intervention can suffer from the stigmatising and labelling effects of being criminalised. Third, there is a pressing need for youth justice policy and practice to be transformed in order to allow for the implementation of more informal, diversionary and restorative measures. Originality/value: The paper has great value for students of youth justice, and policy-makers, especially the conservative-liberal democrat government who wish to cut costs, introduce Restorative Justice on a large scale and appear to be in favour of diverting young people away from formal youth justice intervention.