Public Opinion and Youth Justice Conferencing                


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Release date: 25 March 2012 Embargo: 12am

There is strong public support for restorative justice measures (such as Youth Justice Conferencing) that give offenders an opportunity to meet their victims, apologise and make amends. This is despite recent research showing that Youth Justice Conferencing is no more effective than the NSW Children's Court in reducing the risk of further offending.

A survey just published by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found that nearly nine out of 10 NSW residents (85.9%) strongly support the idea that offenders who damage property or assault someone should do unpaid work in the community.

A similar proportion (87.3%) say that victims of these offences should be given an opportunity to tell offenders about the harm they have done. The public also strongly supports the idea that victims of property damage or assault should have a say in how the offender can make amends for their crime, with nearly three quarters of those surveyed (73.8%) supporting this idea.

The strongest support for restorative justice was found among women, regional dwellers, those with lower educational attainment, crime victims and those holding more punitive attitudes toward offenders.

Interestingly, although the public strongly supports restorative justice, only 67 per cent of those surveyed thought that making amends to victims was effective in preventing crime and disorder, while only 65% thought that doing unpaid work in the community was effective.

The most popular measure to reduce crime and disorder was 'better supervision of young people by parents' (89.3%), followed by 'better mental health care' (85.3%), then 'treatment to tackle drug addiction' (82.6%), and then 'treatment to tackle binge drinking'(71.6%).

A majority (61.8%) thought that a prison sentence would be effective in reducing crime and disorder but this was the least frequently endorsed of the options presented.

Commenting on the findings, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, said that they revealed two things of importance to policy makers.

"Firstly, they show strong public support for measures designed to improve the quality of parenting young people receive and deal with their mental health and drug abuse problems. This is good news because these things would reduce the risk of re-offending"

"Secondly they show that large sections of the public support for measures like Youth Justice Conferencing even though they have little or no confidence they are effective in preventing crime and disorder."

"Governments clearly need to find a way of reconciling public support for restorative justice with the equally pressing need to reduce the risk of juvenile offending."

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190.



1 The survey was conducted by Taverners Research on behalf of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. It involved a representative sample of more than 2,500 NSW residents and was conducted over a four-week period from November to December 2011.