Responsibility is an increasingly important concept within both political and academic debates about youth justice. As an alternative approach to youth crime, restorative justice ideology has contributed to this debate. Restorative justice emphasizes the importance of repairing harm by encouraging offenders to address past behaviour and to become responsible for future actions. This article reflects on empirical findings from the author's research with 41 young offenders who were the subjects of Referral Orders, a purportedly restorative disposal. It considers how successfully the English youth justice system has adopted this approach, arguing that there is a significant differ- ence between the theory of restorative justice and its use in practice. To some extent, New Labour's emphasis on the criminal justice system has missed the point behind the ideology of restorative justice and the wider opportunities it offers for a proactively restorative society.