This procedure covers the role of youth justice during the preparation, facilitation and following a youth justice group conference.

 

When to use this procedure

When supporting a young person required to attend a group conference.

 

Practice context and legislation

  • Youth justice seeks to divert young people from more intensive supervisory orders where this is appropriate.
  • Group conferencing deals with conflict affecting a small group of people. The conference is managed by a convenor who provides a structure for conversation between conference participants. It progresses through a series of stages from conflict or disagreement to cooperation and collective decision making.
  • As a part of case management, youth justice workers should participate in group conferences when a young person is subject to, or likely to receive a supervisory order.
  • The group conference can give youth justice workers the opportunity to:
    • develop their relationship with the young person
    • gain important insights into the young person’s offending, including hearing their story
    • develop a better understanding of the young person’s life circumstances
    • meet the young person’s family/significant others
    • identify key drivers contributing to the young person’s offending
    • provide input about how the young person can address risk factors associated with re-offending
    • support the young person to complete their outcome plan to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.
  • Group conferencing aims to reduce the likelihood of the young person re-offending. The youth justice worker plays a critical role at the group conference as they can provide their:
    • assessment of factors contributing to the young person’s offending
    • input into how the young person can address risk factors associated with re-offending
    • support to the young person at the conference
    • support the young person after the conference to complete their outcome plan.
  • Section 414 of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 allows the court to defer sentencing for a period not exceeding four months to undertake a group conference.
  • Section 415(1) of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 enables the criminal division of the children’s court to consider deferral of sentence for the purpose of a young person’s participation in a group conference if the court is considering imposing a sentence supervised by the youth justice service. This includes probation, youth supervision order, youth attendance order, youth residential centre order or youth justice centre order.
  • Where the court is considering a sentence of detention, the young person may be remanded in custody for up to two months to complete the group conference.
 

Roles and key tasks

Youth justice court advice service worker

  • Meet with young person and solicitor, obtain consent and conduct group conferencing suitability assessment at court when requested.
  • Advise the court of the outcome of the assessment.
  • Where found suitable, advise group conferencing convenor of new referral, and allocate to a youth justice team leader.
  • Collate and provide necessary documentation to convenor and team leader.

Case manager

  • Conduct group conferencing suitability assessment during deferral of sentence and prepare presentence report if ordered by the court.
  • Attend court to support young person and provide advice to the court.
  • If the court orders a group conference, refer the young person to the appropriate group conferencing organisation.
  • Support young person through group conference process, attend conference, and support the young person to complete the outcome plan.

Team leader / team manager

  • Allocate the young person to a case manager.
  • Provide consultation on, and endorsement of, group conferencing suitability assessment and recommendation in pre-sentence report.
  • Provide consultation on case management issues as required.

Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support

  • Provide oversight, direction and monitoring of the area youth justice program.
  • Provide case consultation regarding young people exhibiting high-risk behaviours.

Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor

  • Provide case consultation regarding recommendation, particularly for young people exhibiting high-risk behaviours. This should occur subject to local area agreements between Assistant Director or Manager Individual Family Support and the Senior Practice Advisor.
 

The procedure in detail

Pathways to a group conferencing recommendation

There are two pathways for a young person to be recommended for a group conference:

  • at court via a proposal for group conferencing from the magistrate, prosecutor or young person’s solicitor during court proceedings (see procedure for ‘Court-based suitability assessment for youth justice group conferencing’)
  • in a youth justice pre-sentence report (see ‘Recommending a youth justice group conference in a pre-sentence report’).

Youth justice must conduct a suitability assessment for the court before a young person is referred.

Youth justice involvement after a referral

Youth justice must continue to be involved with the group conferencing process if a young person is the subject of a youth justice order when they are referred to group conferencing, including if they are remanded during the deferral period

Initial contact between youth justice worker and group conference convenor

The ‘Youth justice group conferencing suitability report’ will identify a youth justice worker and their contact details.

It is the group conference convenor’s responsibility to make  contact with the relevant youth justice worker well in advance of the conference to commence preparing them for the group conference.

Preparation – group conference convenor

Before the conference the convenor will:

  • identify people who may attend the conference (in consultation with the youth justice worker) and assess their suitability to participate
  • assess the young person’s immediate needs
  • identify strategies, together with family and relevant professionals including youth justice, to support the young person to address these needs. This may include the young person’s accommodation, health and vocational or education needs
  • note strategies to support the young person after the conference to prevent further offending
  • prepare all participants for the group conference including the:
  • young person and his or her supporters
  • victim(s) and their supporters
  • lawyer
  • police
  • other professionals who may be involved in the group conference including the youth justice worker.
  • organise a venue for the group conference
  • ensure that all participants are able to attend
  • organise other support such as financial support for travel expenses and accommodation, an interpreter or access requirements for attendees with a physical disability.

Preparation – youth justice worker

If a young person is an existing youth justice client (including those subject to a deferral for the preparation of a pre-sentence report) the youth justice worker will have developed a sound understanding of the young person’s supporters including family, significant others and professionals, and the key issues and needs facing the young person.

The group conference outcome plan (endorsed at the group conference) must be congruent with the youth justice case management plan.

The youth justice worker should tell the group conference convenor the people who are best placed to support the young person at the group conference and key issues the young person will need to address in the future to prevent further offending (including key aspects of the youth justice case management plan).

During a group conference

The convenor will facilitate a structured discussion and invite each participant to initially respond in turn to two key questions:

  • What happened?
  • How have you been affected by what happened?

Successful group conferences develop a shared understanding about what happened and how people were affected. This should occur before discussing what might happen in the future.

To enable this shared understanding, the convenor’s questions are directed at each individual, and they require a personal response.

For example, to the youth justice worker:

‘When did you first hear about what happened?

‘What did you think when you read the summary of charges?’

‘How has it been working with (the young person) for you ?’

This is a key difference between a case-planning meeting where practitioners talk only from an exclusively professional view point about a young person and do not share personal feelings.

Once a shared understanding has been established about what happened and how all people at the conference have been involved/affected, there is an opportunity for the young person to apologise.

Following the apology, the convenor will turn the group’s attention to the third key question:

  • What needs to happen in the future to improve the situation?

At this part of the conference the youth justice worker may give a personal response in relation to how the you person can make amends to the victim. However, in relation to preventing further offending, the youth justice worker will comment from their professional viewpoint. This may include suggestions for the young person to engage in a range of practical and therapeutic interventions (in line with the youth justice case management plan).

When everyone has had the opportunity to talk about what should happen in the future, the convenor will invite the young person and their supporters to meet in private to develop an outcome plan.

The outcome plan sets out what the young person will do to make amends for their offending and prevent further offending.

Following private time, the group conference re-convenes and the outcome plan is shared with all participants.

The formal group conferencing process comes to an end when there is unanimous agreement about the content of the plan.

If there is not unanimous agreement about the outcome plan, the convenor will negotiate with all participants until agreement is reached.

Return to court for sentencing after a group conference

The youth justice worker and the convenor should attend court to support the young person and provide any other information or advice to the court as required.

The group conference convenor will prepare a report for the court that includes the outcome plan.

In determining an appropriate sentence the court will consider:

  • the young person’s behaviour during the period of deferral
  • the pre-sentence report (where applicable)
  • the young person’s participation in the group conference
  • information in the group conference report.

After the conference – when the young person receives a statutory order

The youth justice worker will help the young person complete the component of the outcome plan that relates to reducing re-offending.

This may include referral to appropriate services, and support to attend appointments.

It is the responsibility of the group conference convenor to monitor the remaining part of the outcome plan: ‘How the young person intends to make amends to the victim’.

The convenor is responsible for monitoring the overall plan and maintaining contact with the youth justice worker to ensure that all tasks are completed.

After the conference – when the young person does not receive a statutory order

If the young person does not receive a statutory order, the youth justice worker has no further formal involvement with the young person.

If the young person does not complete their outcome plan

Make every effort to support and encourage the young person to complete their outcome plan.

If they do not complete their plan due to circumstances beyond the young person’s control, the convenor and youth justice should discuss the circumstances and consider the best course of action.

 

Additional information

  • Youth Justice Group Conferencing program guidelines (224.1 KB, PDF)
  • Youth Justice Group Conferencing Suitability Assessment report proforma (intranet only) (248.0 KB, MS WORD)
  • Youth justice court advice service client information guide (intranet only) (103.5 KB, MS WORD)
  • Group conferencing