Youth Justice Conferences               


Click here for the full Bureau Brief 73 report (pdf, 671Kb)

Click here for the full Bureau Brief 74 report (pdf, 411Kb)

Release date: 31 January 2012

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has just released two studies designed to inform the Government's review of the NSW Young Offenders Act. Both studies examine different aspects of Youth Justice Conferences (conferences).

Conferences are a procedure established under the Young Offenders Act in which young offenders are brought together with their victims to discuss the offence and what the offender can do to restore or make amends for the harm their offending has done.

Bureau Brief 73: The use of police cautions and youth justice conferences in 2010

Very few juveniles receive more than three police cautions or conferences, according to a new study of juvenile offenders released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. The Bureau examined the characteristics of all (13,980) young people in 2010 who received a police caution (8,558 or 61.2%), attended a conference (960 or 6.9%) or who had a proven appearance in the NSW Children's Court (4,462 or 31.9%).

The vast majority (78.4%) of those who received a police caution had no previous caution. A smaller percentage (21.2%) had one or two previous cautions. Less than one per cent (0.4%) had three or more previous cautions. More than 95 per cent had no previous conference or court appearance.

Prior police cautions and prior conferences were more likely amongst those who received a conference or who were referred to court. Thirty-nine per cent of those who attended a conference had had one or two previous cautions. Nearly fifteen per cent (14.6%) had had three or more previous cautions.

Overall, as the number of contacts (cautions, conferences or court appearances) increases, the likelihood of being dealt with via a caution decreases. Thus 81.9 per cent of those with no previous contacts were dealt with by a caution, compared with 8.5 per cent of those with 3 or more previous contacts.

The likelihood of a court appearance also increases. Thus, whereas only 13.4 per cent of juveniles with no previous contacts were referred to court, 80.3 per cent of those with three or more previous contacts were referred to court.

Although the results suggest that hierarchy of sanctions established by the Young Offenders Act is being adhered to, the Bureau noted that juvenile offenders are far more likely to be given a caution or referred to court than they are to be referred to a conference.

Bureau Brief 74: Youth Justice Conferencing vs the Children's Court: Time finalization

In judging the value of conferencing one of the issues to consider is whether matters dealt with by a conference are finalized more slowly than matters dealt with by the Children's Court.

To answer this question the Bureau examined the time to finalize matters in three groups of cases. The first (CC) group consisted of 1,599 matters dealt with in the NSW Children's Court. The second (C-YJC) group consisted of 951 matters dealt with at a conference but which were initially referred to the Children's Court. The third (P-YJC) group consisted of 811 matters referred to a conference by NSW Police. The matters were carefully chosen so that all were capable of being dealt with at a conference.

The Bureau found that case finalization times were fastest in the P-YJC group (median = 55 days), second fastest in the CC group (median = 64 days) and slowest in the C-YJC group (128 days). This effect held up after controlling for the age of the defendant, his or her Indigenous status, the juvenile justice region where the matter was determined and the number of charges.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190