Author Nadine Smith and Don Weatherburn
Published February 2012
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 160
Subject Children, juveniles and young people; Diversion; Recidivism / Re-offending; Sentencing; Evaluation reports
Keywords NSW Young Offenders Act (1997), Youth Justice Conference, conferencing, restorative justice, juvenile re-offending

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To compare re-offending between young people processed in NSW with a Youth Justice Conference and those eligible for a conference but processed in the Children’s Court.


Using propensity score matching, young persons whose offending was allocated to be dealt with by a Youth Justice Conference in 2007 were matched to those who were eligible for a conference but who were referred to Children’s Court in 2007. These samples were then compared on various re-offending outcomes both without and with adjustment for potential covariates. Both intention-to-treat and as-treated analyses were conducted. For the intention-to-treat analyses, all young persons allocated a conference not just those who completed their conference outcome plan where included in the conference group. While for the as-treated analyses only young persons who completed their conference outcome plan where included in the conference group. Inverse probabilities of treatment weightings were also applied to estimate the effect of conferencing on re-offending.


After adjusting for other factors in the intention-to-treat analyses, no significant differences were found between conference and court participants in the proportion re-offending, the seriousness of their re-offending, the time to the first proven re-offence or the number of proven re-offences. Non-significant results were obtained regardless of whether the definition of re-offending included or excluded justice procedures offences. In the as-treated analyses, the results were similar.


The evidence strongly suggests that the conference regime established under the NSW Young Offenders Act (1997) is no more effective than the NSW Children’s Court in reducing juvenile re-offending among young persons eligible for a conference.

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