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Restorative justice measures for juvenile offenders not having intended impact

Media Release

31 August 2010

Some juveniles who might normally be given warnings and cautions for minor offences are being referred by police to more intensive restorative justice measures, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).

AIC Research Analyst, Dr Kelly Richards, said this means restorative justice measures for juveniles, which were introduced to divert juveniles from the court and corrections systems, may not be having the impact they were intended to have.

Police referred restorative justice for juveniles in Australia looked at the restorative justice legislation, practices and most recent data on juveniles in each Australian jurisdiction and found that although males comprise the majority of young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system, similar proportions of male and female juveniles were referred to restorative justice measures, suggesting a ‘net-widening’ impact on female juveniles.

The study also found that the proportion of all juveniles who were referred by police to restorative conferences varied substantially by jurisdiction and that juveniles were most likely to be referred to conferences for property crimes.

Dr Richards said that substantial proportions (ranging from 32 percent in New South Wales to 45 percent in South Australia) of juveniles referred to restorative justice measures, such as conferences, were aged 10 to 14, suggesting that conferences may be disproportionately used for younger juveniles.

“This is a somewhat unexpected finding, as we know older juveniles comprise most of those who come into contact with the criminal justice system and it might be expected that younger juveniles would be diverted via warnings or cautions,” Dr Richards said.

A key finding from the study showed that Indigenous juveniles consistently comprised higher proportions of juveniles sent to court instead of conferencing. “This could suggest that Indigenous young people are not being diverted via restorative measures to the same extent as their non-Indigenous counterparts,” Dr Richards said, “although we should consider whether Indigenous juveniles in remote communities have the same access to diversionary measures as those living in urban communities.”

To view the paper visit Police referred restorative justice for juveniles in Australia

AIC media contact: Caterina Giugovaz Telephone: 02 6260 9226; Mobile: 0418 221 798.