Youth justice conferences

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Youth justice conferences, otherwise known in South Australia as Family Conferences,  are more serious than formal cautions, but less serious than court proceedings.

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What is a Conference?

The police also have the power to request that you attend a youth justice conference, otherwise known as a ‘Family Conference’.

However, before doing so, the police must explain to you:

  • the nature of the offence and how they think it has occurred;
  • that you are allowed to have a lawyer if you want; and
  • that you are allowed to have the offence dealt with by a court instead if you want.

A Family Conference is an alternative to going to court. The conference is designed to allow everyone impacted by your actions and involved in your life to have discuss the offence. Some of the people who might come include yourself, your family and the victim of your actions. Ultimately, together you will come up with a way that the damage from your actions can be made up for.

How is a Family conference set up?

Someone who is known as a ’Youth Justice Co-ordinator’ will set up a time and place for the conference. The meeting may take place at a variety of locations such as a school, community centre or police station. You will get a notice letting you know all of these details. The people who are allowed to attend the conference include:

  • yourself
  • your parents (or guardians)
  • your relatives or any other people who have a close association with you
  • the victim
  • the victim’s parents (or guardians)
  • relatives of the victim or any other person who is close to them,  
  • a representative of the Commissioner of Police
  • anyone else the Youth Justice Co-ordinator thinks it is appropriate to invite

You can also have a lawyer present to at the conference to advise you at any stage during the conference. however the lawyer can’t speak on your behalf.

Reaching a decision at the conference

The Conference will aim to reach an outcome that is a compromise between all of the parties. The Family Conference has power to require you to:

  • apologise to the victim, either in writing or orally;
  • pay compensation to the victim;
  • carry out up to 300 hours community service work;
  • receive a formal caution against further offending;
  • do anything else appropriate under the circumstances to prevent re-offending

Any decisions made during the conference will only be final if the offender and the police representative agree with the decision. If a decision cannot be reached during the conference, then the matter will go to court and the courts will reach a decision.

If you attend a Conference and perform all the promises that you made at it, you cannot be charged for the same offence in court.

If you don’t go the conference or fail to comply with what is required at the conference,  then a police officer may charge you and you may have to go to court.

If you’re under 25 and you’ve been accused of a crime and want to know what could happen, please contact us here and we can give you free advice and information. Everything you tell us will be kept confidential.

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