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Youth justice conferencing

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A youth justice conference is a voluntary meeting between a child offender, the victim and other people affected by their crime with the help of an independent mediator.

The police may refer a child to a youth justice conference instead of sending them to court.

Before participating in a youth justice conference you should get legal advice.

What is a youth justice conference?

A youth justice conference is a meeting between the child offender and the people affected by their crime.

If the child admits they’re guilty, the police and the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (DJAG) can arrange a youth justice conference instead of dealing with the matter in court.

The purpose of the conference is to make sure the child accepts and understands their responsibility for the crime, and its effects on other people. The conference has an independent mediator called a convenor who tries to help the child, their family, the victim and other people affected by the crime to make decisions about how to repair the harm the child has caused.  

A youth justice conference is voluntary. The victim doesn’t have to go if they don’t want to, however the conference may go ahead without them. If the child offender refuses to take part, they may be dealt with by the court or in another way by the police.

How long does a conference take?

The conference usually takes around 2 hours.

What could be the result?

The child offender might agree to:

  • apologise
  • do something to make the victim feel safer
  • replace damaged property
  • agree to accept help to stop committing offences
  • do voluntary work for the community or an organisation the victim chooses.

This agreement is put in writing.

If the child offender has committed a graffiti offence, the agreement must include the child doing unpaid work cleaning up graffiti in a program similar to those covered by a graffiti order, unless the victim asks for the child offender to be dealt with in another way.

Can a lawyer accompany me to the conference?

Yes. You can apply for Legal Aid to have a lawyer attend the conference with you.

What if the youth justice conference doesn't work out?

If no agreement is reached, the child doesn't follow the agreement or the child doesn’t turn up, then the police will decide what to do with the child. They may try another conference or send the child to the criminal court.

If I’m the victim, can I get financial assistance?

Yes. To be eligible there must be an act of violence as part of the offence, it must be committed in Queensland, and directly results in the death of, or injury to, a person. The offence also needs to have been reported to police (although there is an exception in certain circumstances).

Generally, an act of violence must be committed against a person, and includes offences of attempting to commit an act of violence. Stalking and domestic violence will be covered, however property offences are excluded (eg breaking and entering, fraud and extortion).

The offender doesn’t need to be identified, arrested, prosecuted or convicted.

Applying for financial assistance

To apply for financial assistance you must:

  • complete the approved form (available from Victim Assist Queensland)
  • get a medical certificate (if needed)
  • provide other supporting documents.

An application must be made:

  • within 3 years after the act of violence
  • for related victims—3 years after the death of the primary victim of the act
  • for child victims—3 years after the day the child turns 18.

A time extension may be available in some cases.

The assessor may ask a victim to be examined by a health practitioner so a report can be prepared.

Financial assistance may be paid:

  • entirely to the applicant
  • partly to the applicant and partly to someone else
  • entirely to someone else, like a counsellor or psychologist.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you:

  • have been asked to participate in a youth justice conference
  • participated in a youth justice conference that didn't work out.

How to get legal advice

We may give legal advice about youth justice conferences.

We have a dedicated Youth Team helping children in relation to criminal matters.

The following organisations may be able to give legal advice.

Youth Advocacy Centre has a community legal and social welfare service for young people under 17.

YFS Legal gives legal information, advice and representation in criminal law matters to young people under 25.

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

Department of Justice and Attorney-General gives information about youth justice conferencing.

Protect All Children Today (PACT) gives help and support to children who need to give evidence within the criminal justice system as victims of crime or witnesses.

Victims Counselling and Support Service helps victims and witnesses to crimes with counselling and support, and gives information about the court process. They can’t provide court support.

Victim Liaison Service (DJAG):

  • keeps victims up to date with the progress of the case
  • tells them when the case will go to court
  • ·organises for the victim to meet with the crown prosecutor to talk about the case
  • makes sure the victim understands what will happen at the trial or sentencing
  • gives information about court processes. 
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