What is group conferencing?
The Group Conferencing Program operates as a pre-sentence option in the Children's Court of Victoria. Group Conferencing is based on restorative justice principles and aims to help the young person avoid further or more serious offending. The group conferencing process attempts to strengthen the young person’s family and community supports and identifies ways of restoring the harm associated with the offending behaviour.
Who is it for?
Group conferencing is for young people referred by the Children's Court who have:
- pleaded guilty or have been found guilty of offences that do not include homicide, manslaughter or sex offences;
- committed offences serious enough to warrant a supervisory order (probation/youth supervision order/youth attendance order) or a period of detention (youth residential centre/youth justice centre) to be considered by the court;
- consented to participate; and
- been assessed as suitable by a Youth Justice officer of the Department of Health & Human Services.
Who attends a group conference?
A group conference is attended by:
- the young person
- their family and/or supports
- the victim and/or their representative
- family and/or supports of the victim
- legal representative of the young person
- police informant (the police officer who laid the charge/s)
- community members, and
- the convenor.
What happens at a group conference?
At the conference the young person and the other participants talk about what happened and will agree on what needs to be done about the harm caused by the offence. At the end of the conference an outcome plan will be prepared that sets out the agreements that were made.
The convenor then writes a report which explains what happened in the conference, and this is presented to the Children’s Court.
What are the possible outcomes of a group conference?
Recommendations from the conference could include:
- assistance and support for the young person in such areas as education, skill development, employment and counselling, and
- ways of dealing with the offence. This could mean that the young person apologises, pays for all or part of the damage, or makes a donation.
When deciding on an appropriate sentence, the court will take into account the contents of the group conference outcome plan.