Youth justice conferences

For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.

Youth justice conferences are more serious than formal cautions, but less serious than court proceedings.

Navigate this page

What is a conference?

A restorative justice conference (also known as a youth justice conference or a family group conference) is a meeting where people involved in an offence (including the young offender, victim and support people) talk about the offence and make decisions about how the young offender can make up for what they did. If you were between the ages of 10 and 17 when you have been charged this conference is a possible option for you.

For example, the people at the conference might agree that you do community service, attend a rehabilitation program or write an apology to the victim. These types of punishments are intended to promote the development of the young offender, to be a less restrictive option that is appropriate and to help the young offender accept responsibility for their offence.

Who is eligible for a conference?

You can attend a restorative justice conference if:

  • You are a young offender and have committed a less serious offence;
  • You have accepted responsibility;
  • You were at least 10 years old when the offence occurred;
  • You are capable of agreeing to restorative justice; and
  • You agree to be part of restorative justice.

The victim must also agree to be involved for this system to work.

You can be referred to restorative youth justice by:

  • Police
  • Director-General (restorative justice) or (children and young people)
  • Director of Public Prosecutions
  • Magistrates Court (this includes the Childrens Court) or the Supreme Court.

Depending who refers you, restorative justice can occur after you have been cautioned, before the end of a court proceeding or after the court has made a sentence. If you are to be referred to restorative justice, the purpose and nature of the system must be explained to you. When deciding if your matter should be dealt with through a restorative justice conference, the Director-General will consider:

  • The nature of the offence, including the level of harm caused or violence involved;
  • How appropriate it is at your current stage in the justice process;
  • Any power imbalances between you and the victim; and
  • The physical and psychological effect restorative justice may have on the participants.

What happens during a conference?

The conference is run by a convenor. They will run it in a way that they think is suitable for the people attending, but they must help the participants to reach an agreement.

Before the conference takes place, the convener must speak to you and everyone else involved. This is to explain the purpose of the conference, who may be present in the conference and make clear that you can refuse to continue to be part of the conference at any time.

People allowed at the conference are:

  • The offender;
  • The victim;
  • The police officer involved; and
  • Parents or family members.

The purpose of the conference is to reach an agreement that aims to repair any harm caused by the offence. This can include an apology, voluntary community work or a fine to be paid. The agreement must be fair and, in the opinion of both you (the offender) and the victim, reasonably able to be carried out. The agreement should be for no longer than 6 months and it starts of the date the agreement is made, unless it is agreed to start on a later date.

Will a conference appear on my criminal record?

If an offence is referred for restorative justice, the process must be recorded. The police or court must keep a record of:

  • The circumstances in which the referral for a conference were made
  • The progress of restorative justice; and
  • The outcome.

The police or court must also keep a record of the agreement reached in the conference. While there is a database that holds all the results of restorative justice conferences, your identity is not made known to those who view it.

If you reach an agreement under the restorative justice conference, the Court cannot continue to charge you with an offence. However the conference may still show up on your record.

If you’re under 25 and you’ve been accused of a crime and want to know what could happen, you can contact us here, and we can give you free advice and information. Everything you tell us will be kept confidential.

Got a question you can't get answered?

If you have a problem or a question, you can send it to us today and we can provide you with free advice, information and referrals to help solve your problem. Just click on the button below.

Get help now

Select Your State or Territory

The law is different in each state and territory. Please select your state or territory to view legal information that applies to you.