Purpose: The purpose of the paper is to examine the discourses of risk, prevention and early intervention, with particular reference, the treatment of girls in the contemporary Youth Justice System. Design: The paper has two broad objectives: firstly, the paper reviews the literature on early intervention and youth crime prevention policy. Secondly, the paper focuses on youth justice practice in relation to girls who are engaged in youth justice processes or “at risk” of criminal involvement. Findings: The paper argues that: girls are drawn into the system for welfare rather than crime-related matters; and youth justice policy and practice seems to negate girls’ gender-specific needs. Moreover, the paper highlights research evidence and practice-based experience, and contends that youth justice policy and practice must be re-developed in favour of incorporating gender-specific, child and young person centred practices. Value: The results presented in this article will be particularly pertinent to policy makers, educators and practitioners in the sphere of youth justice, especially since the contemporary youth justice system, in its rigorous, actuarial pursuance of risk management, fails to distinguish between “gender” within its formulaic assessment documentation.