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Youth Conferences

Youth Justice Group Conferencing

Eligibility for a group conference

At the Conference

Outcome of the conference

 

Youth Justice Group Conferencing

If the Children’s Court is considering imposing a sentence of probation or a youth supervision order, the Court may defer sentencing and order that the young person participate in a youth justice group conference.  The Court may defer sentencing for a period not exceeding 4 months.  The conference is not run by the police, but by a conference convenor.

The purpose of a group conference is for the people involved in an offence (including the offender and the victim) to make decisions and agree on an outcome plan about how the offender can make up for their offence. For example, the people at the conference might agree that the offender will do community service, attend a rehabilitation program or write an apology to the victim. When sentencing the offender, the Court will take into account the contents of the outcome plan and the extent to which the offender has complied with the plan.  A successful conference and compliance with the outcome plan can result in diversion of the young person from a Supervisory Court Order.

Group conferencing is intended to help the offender accept responsibility for their offence, to help keep young people away from further involvement in the criminal justice system, and to reintegrate young people into the community following an offence. It is a voluntary scheme in which the young person has a say in whether to choose group conferencing as one alternative to put to the court.

 

 

Eligibility for a group conference


Referral to group conferencing by the Children’s Court is available for young people (from age 10 up until the age of 17) who have:

  • pleaded guilty or been found guilty of offences that do not include homicide, manslaughter or sex offences;
  • committed offences serious enough to warrant a probation or youth supervision order to be considered by the court;
  • consented to participate;  and
  • been assessed as suitable to participate in a Group Conference by the Department of Human Services.

In deciding whether a young person is suitable to participate in a Group Conference, the Department of Human Services will consider the following:

  • their acceptance of their role in the offence, their level of remorse, and their awareness of, and feeling towards, the victim;
  • safety issues and/or special needs of the young person including intellectual ability, drug or alcohol use and cultural values; and
  • how they communicate with others and how this might impact on their participation in the group conference.


 

At the Conference


A group conference must be attended by:

  • the young person who has committed the offence;
  • their legal representative;
  • the police informant (who brought the charges); and
  • the conference convenor (who runs the conference).

 

In addition, a group conference may be attended by:

  • the young person’s family;
  • persons of significance to the young person;
  • the victim and/or their representative;
  • any other person permitted to attend by the Convenor (this could include community members and family and/or support persons of the victim where appropriate).

The conference provides all people involved, in particular the young person who committed the offence and the victim, the chance to tell their story and talk about how the offence has affected them. At the end of this discussion, the people involved suggest how the young person might repair the harm caused to the victim, and decide on an outcome plan. Recommendations from the conference could include that the offender participate in education, employment or counselling programs or take steps to repair the damage done by the offence (e.g. by making an apology to the victim, paying for the damage or making a donation).

 

Outcome of the conference


Group conferences are a pre-sentence option. This means that after the conference the case returns to the Court for completion of the sentencing process. Upon conclusion of the conference, the Convenor will prepare a report for the Court including the outcome plan. They will discuss the report with the young person and their lawyer. If the Court accepts the outcome plan, the convenor will contact the young person and a community representative to help the young person implement the outcome plan. It is the responsibility of the young person and their support group to implement the outcome plan.

In determining a sentence, the Court will take into account the the desirability of letting the young person live at home and attend school or work; the suitability of the sentence; and the need to protect the community. . If the young person participated in the conference and agreed to the group conference plan, the Court must impose a sentence less severe than it would have imposed had they not participated in a group conference.

If the young person fails to attend the conference without reasonable excuse, the Convenor will report their lack of participation to the Court in writing.  This will be taken into account upon sentencing. However, the Court cannot impose a sentence that is more severe than it would have imposed had sentencing not been deferred.



This page was last updated 28 June 2015.




   
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