When anyone under 18 years old breaks the law, they can be referred to the youth justice system. This gives them a chance to make some positive changes to their lives without getting a criminal record.
A Youth Justice Family Group Conference (YJFGC) gives a child, tamariki or young person, rangitahi the opportunity to have an honest talk with their parents or caregivers, family, whānau, victims, police and others involved with their case – such as their social worker, youth worker, or lawyer.
The young offender and victims can bring a support person or support persons with them. These could be trusted friends, family or whānau members, community or faith leader, your Victim Support Worker, or a social or support worker from another agency. Together they can discuss the offending, what can be learned from mistakes made, and what can be done to put things right.
A Youth Justice Coordinator from Oranga Tamariki arranges the meeting. Their job is to answer any questions and help everyone get the best outcome from the meeting. An interpreter can also attend the meeting, if needed.
How the conference works
- Everyone is welcome.
- The facts of the case are discussed and the child, tamariki or young person, rangitahi is asked to take responsibility for their offending.
- The group considers what the underlying reasons behind the young person’s actions might be – why did they do what they did?
- Victims are asked to speak about how the offending has affected them. The young person is encouraged to see what happened through the victim’s eyes. This helps them to better understand the consequences of their actions.
- The conference finds practical ways for the child, tamariki or young person, rangitahi to make right what they have done. This could be community service to compensate the victim for any damages. Any other needs, such as anger management or alcohol and drug support, will also be discussed. If it’s agreed that they need help with these matters, Oranga Tamariki will be asked to arrange this.
- Goals are set for the future. These could include learning life skills, education, employment, getting involved with other activities (sport and/or the arts), finding cultural support, or connecting them with a mentor.
- If the conference group is unable to agree on a plan, the case will be referred back to the Youth Court. This may result in a further Family Group Conference or the Court making other decisions about the offender.
Many victims do find it a helpful process.
The conference is your chance to have a say. You can talk about how the crime affected you and your family or whānau – physically, emotionally, and financially. You can say how you think things can be made right with you, if that’s possible.
You have the right to:
- be given information about the Youth Justice Family Group Conferences
- have a say about the day, time, and place of the conference
- be supported to attend the conference
- be safe - you can ask to be seated where you feel most comfortable, and you can take a support person with you
- give your own views of what happened and say what you expect should happen
- contribute to the plan for the young person
- be kept informed about the young person’s progress and the outcomes of the agreed plan that is put in place.
- You can get some answers to any questions you may have of the offender.
- You can help the young person face up to their crime and better understand the impact their offending has had on you.
- You can let the group know what needs to happen to put things right for you as far as possible.
- You can help develop a plan for the young person and have a say in what you would like to see happen.
- Restorative justice can be effective at changing the offender’s behaviour, so your attendance might stop this happening to someone else.
As a victim of a crime, facing the child, tamariki or young person, rangitahi and their supporters in a group conference can be challenging. It’s natural to feel some strong emotions.
The Youth Justice Coordinator, or in some cases, your Support Worker will be your main point of contact. You can talk to them about any concerns you have. You can also invite support people to come with you and be in the meeting with you. Your Support Worker can attend the conference with you, or go on your behalf and represent you if you choose not to attend.
If you don’t want to, or are unable to attend the conference, you can still express your views. The Youth Justice Coordinator or your Support Worker can talk to you about other options.
- Arranging someone else, such as a support person or your Victim Support Worker, to attend and speak on your behalf.
- The Youth Justice Coordinator or your Support Worker can present your views to the group.
- You can write a letter that can be read out to the group. A Victim Impact Statement can also be included with this letter.
- Attend by video or tele conference.
Ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi.
As the old net is laid aside, a new net is remade.
Victim Support is here to help
You can ask your Support Worker any questions you might have about the Youth Justice Family Group Conference system. They can also come along with you to a conference if you would find that supportive. Just ask them or you can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846.
Other useful information and websites
Download this helpful information as a PDF - Youth Justice Family Group Conferences