Volume 1, Issue 1, June 1998

ISSN 1096-4886 http://www.westerncriminology.org/Western_Criminology_Review.htm
© 1998, The Western Criminology Review. All Rights Reserved.

Restorative Justice in New Zealand:
Family Group Conferences as a Case Study

Allison Morris


Gabrielle Maxwell

Citation: Morris, Allison and Gabrielle Maxwell. 1998. "Restorative Justice in New Zealand: Family Group Conferences as a Case Study." Western Criminology Review 1 (1). [Online]. Available: http://www.westerncriminology.org/documents/WCR/v01n1/Morris/Morris.html


Family group conferences were introduced in New Zealand in 1989. Despite the absence of specific reference to restorative justice in the debates introducing them, their underlying philosophy incorporates key features of restorative justice. This article describes the role family group conferences play, drawing from research we conducted from 1990 to 1991 and in 1996. In particular, it reviews the extent to which young people, their families, and victims can come together to decide how best to deal with the young person's offending. It suggests that the findings from this research provide a sufficient basis for New Zealand to move further forward in the implementation of restorative justice processes for adult offenders and for other countries wishing to move towards more restorative approaches to consider family group conferences as a useful strategy.

Keywords: family group counseling, restorative justice, juvenile justice, juvenile courts, crime victims, juvenile justice reform

Restorative Justice in New Zealand:
Family Group Conferences as a Case Study

Despite the absence of specific reference to restorative justice in the debates introducing family group conferences in New Zealand in 1989, their underlying philosophy incorporates key features of restorative justice. In particular, they aim to heal the damage that has been caused by youthful offending, to involve those most affected by the offending in determining appropriate responses to it and to "makes things better" both for young people who have committed offenses and for their victims. This paper outlines the principles underlying the introduction of family group conferences and describes the role they play in New Zealand's youth justice system.1 It draws from research we conducted in 1990 and 1991 (Maxwell and Morris 1993, 1996) and in 1996 (Morris and Maxwell 1997). But first we describe briefly the youth justice system introduced in New Zealand by the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 ("the 1989 act ").

The Practice of Youth Justice in New Zealand

The intention underlying New Zealand's youth justice system is to encourage the police to adopt low-key responses to juvenile offending whenever possible. Thus, as in most jurisdictions now, minor and first offenders are diverted from prosecution by means of an immediate (street) warning. Where further action is thought necessary, the police refer the young person to the police Youth Aid Section (a specialist unit) for follow-up. The Youth Aid Section may issue a warning in the presence of the young person's parents, require an apology to the victim, impose an additional sanction (for example, community work) or, when such sanctions have not been successful in the past or when the offending is more serious, refer the young person to a family group conference. During 1996, 22 percent of young offenders known to the police were given warnings by them, a further 59 percent were diverted by Youth Aid, and another 9 percent were referred by Youth Aid for a family group conference. Thus the police cannot refer a young person directly to court unless he or she has been arrested (we deal with this below). They must seek a family group conference if they wish the young person to be dealt with in court and, if the family group conference can arrive at a satisfactory outcome acceptable to all the parties, that is the end of the matter.

Juvenile offenders can only be arrested if certain tightly drawn conditions are met and, in 1996, only 11 percent of young people who offended were arrested. It is usually only this arrested group who will subsequently appear in the Youth Court: a branch of the District Court dealing exclusively with youth justice issues. The Youth Court is closed to the public to preserve the confidentiality of its proceedings. The Youth Court routinely appoints a youth advocate (a lawyer) to represent the young person, if the young person does not already have a legal representative. The intention of the 1989 Act was to allow young persons, their families, and victims to be involved in the judicial process and to influence outcomes. Thus the Youth Court cannot make a disposition unless a family group conference has been held, and it must take into account in its decisions any plan or recommendations put forward by the family group conference.2 In all, therefore, around 20 percent of all young offenders known to the police are dealt with through family group conferences: that is, approximately 5,000 family group conferences are held each year. Figure 1 sets out a description of the youth justice process.

Figure 1

Describing Family Group Conferences3

Family group conferences are made up of the young person who has committed the offense, members of his or her family and whoever the family invites, the victim(s) or their representative, a support person for the victim(s), a representative of the police, and the mediator or manager of the process. (The manager of the process is called a youth justice coordinator and is an employee of the Department of Social Welfare.) Sometimes a social worker and/or a lawyer is present. The main goal of a conference is to formulate a plan about how best to deal with the offending. There are three principal components to this process:

  • ascertaining whether or not the young person admits the offense - conferences only proceed if the young person does so or if the offense has been proved in the Youth Court;
  • sharing information among all the parties at the conference about the nature of the offense, the effects of the offense on the victims, the reasons for the offending, any prior offending by the young person, and so on;
  • deciding the outcome or recommendation.

The family group conference is a meeting between those entitled to attend, in a relatively informal setting. The room is usually arranged with comfortable chairs in a circle. When all are present, the meeting may open with a prayer or a blessing, depending on the customs of those involved. The youth justice coordinator then welcomes the participants, introduces each of them, and describes the purposes of the meeting. What happens next can vary, but usually the police representative then reads out the summary of the offense. The young person is asked if he or she agrees that this is what happened and any variation is noted. If he or she does not agree, the meeting progresses no further and the police may consider referring the case to the Youth Court for a hearing. Assuming the young person agrees, the victim, or a spokesperson for the victim, is then usually asked to describe what the events meant for them. Next, a general discussion of the offense and the circumstances underlying it occurs. There can be a lot of emotion expressed at this point. It is at this point too that the young person and his or her family may express their remorse for what has happened and make an apology to the victim, although more often this occurs later on (and somePalatino it does not happen at all). Once everybody has discussed what the offending has meant and options for making good the damage, the professionals and the victim leave the family and the young person to meet privately to discuss what plans and recommendation they wish to make to repair the damage and to prevent reoffending. The private family time can take as little as half an hour or much longer. When the family are ready, the others return and the meeting is reconvened. SomePalatino this is the point at which the young person and the family apologize to the victim. A spokesperson for the family outlines what they propose and all discuss the proposal. Once there is agreement among all present, the details are formally recorded and the conference concludes, somePalatino with the sharing of food.

Professionals are expected to play a low key role in the family group conference. The youth justice coordinator ensures that everyone understands the tasks that need to be done, that all relevant issues are discussed and that the venting of emotion is managed as constructively as possible. The role of the police is usually limited to describing the offense, and possibly the impact of it on the victim. The police may also voice their concerns if the proposals of the family seem inadequate or excessive. The youth advocate's main role is to advise on legal issues and to protect the young person's rights; they may also express an opinion about the proposed penalties if these seem excessive. The social worker, if present, will normally only provide background information on the young person and participate in supporting the plans of the family and the young person for the future. Practice can, however, vary considerably. Conferences are intended to be flexible and responsive to young people, families and victims. All these values can be breached at times, especially when professionals do not understand or accept their roles.4

Provided that the plans and decisions have been agreed to by all those attending the family group conference and, for court-referred cases, are accepted by the Youth Court judge, they are binding on all those involved. The plans are meant to take into account the views of the victims, the need to make the young person accountable for his or her offending, and any measures that may prevent future reoffending by enhancing the well-being of the offender or strengthening the family. The range of possible sanctions here is extensive and can include an apology, community work, reparation, or involvement in a program. Conferences take much longer than courts to reach resolutions. Just under a third of the conferences in our research (Maxwell and Morris 1993) took less than an hour, almost a third took between an hour and an hour and a half, and more than a quarter took between one and a half and two hours. Around 10 percent took more than two hours. Family group conferences can take place wherever the family wish, provided that the victim agrees. Most commonly they are held in rooms at the Department of Social Welfare or in community rooms; occasionally they are held on marae (meeting houses) or in the family's home.

The Principles Underlying the Introduction of Family Group Conferences

The 1980s was a time of considerable debate in New Zealand about the way in which decisions should be taken by the State regarding children and young people. This debate was wider than youth justice. Indeed, it mainly centered on decisions about the care and protection of children and young people who were abused or neglected; but in the end it became the general debate that proved decisive in determining the provisions for young offenders and their families. Maori (New Zealand's indigenous people) in particular hotly contested the widespread removal of children from their homes that had characterized the past. They advanced the view that decisions must involve the families, including whanau (all those descended from common grandparents), hapu (clan) and iwi (tribe) and should not be usurped by professionals. Further, there was concern about the extent to which society blamed families for their children's offenses and held parents responsible for them in negative and punitive ways while, at the same time, failing to provide supports and services for children and families and excluding them from decision-making.

The outcome of the debate was agreement that issues around children and young people should be resolved in partnership between the State and families. The underlying intention was to involve families, to give families responsibility to deal constructively with their children's offending and to restrict the power of professionals, in particular the power of social welfare professionals. At the same time, it was seen to be the State's responsibility to provide services that can support families and provide for the needs of children and young people in ways that are culturally appropriate and accessible.

The 1980s were also a time of debate about the role of Maori in the wider society, including ways in which Maori justice practices could or should transform current justice practices, which were based on a British, or more accurately, an English understanding of justice. Historically, Maori justice processes were based on notions that responsibility was collective rather than individual and redress was due not just to the victim but also to the victim's family. Understanding why an individual had offended was also linked to this notion of collective responsibility. The reasons were felt to lie not in the individual but in a lack of balance in the offender's social and family environment. The causes of this imbalance, therefore, had to be addressed in a collective way and, in particular, the harmony between the offender and the victim's family had to be restored (Durie 1995). For example, the agreed outcome might have involved the transfer of the offender's goods to the victim or work by the offender for the victim.

Colonialism, however, had all but destroyed indigenous systems of justice in all parts of the British Empire and New Zealand was no exception (Jackson 1988; Pratt 1992). The relationship between the State and Maoridom as set out in the Treaty of Waitangi and signed by the Crown and several Maori chiefs in 1840 was intended to create a partnership, but this did not happen: Maori culture and values were not allowed to exist alongside the culture and values of the colonizers. Maori justice practices to a large extent were dismantled, at least on an official level. However, the resurgence of Maori in the 1980s challenged conventional practices and, in many respects, the youth justice system in New Zealand today is an example of Maori justice in practice. They share key philosophies.

Thus, the New Zealand youth justice system stresses the need for a process that is culturally appropriate and for the provision of services that are culturally sensitive. The involvement of whanau, hapu, and iwi is explicitly recognized within the 1989 Act in both discussions and decisions about appropriate solutions to juvenile offending. The key mechanism for translating these cultural ideals into practice is the family group conference. It seeks to give families power in the decision-making process and to achieve reconciliation between the victim and the offender. As in the traditional Maori model, young people, their families, and victims join together to decide how best to deal with the offending. Social balance is to be achieved by reintegrating young people in their family and community and by determining appropriate means of redress for victims.

One further relevant debate occurred during the 1980s: the victims' movement emerged at this time in New Zealand as it did elsewhere. It culminated in the passing of the Victim of Offenses Act 1987, which gave victims a number of 'rights', and in the formation of the Victims Task Force. Neither of these touched the youth justice system directly, but the time was ripe for victims' views to be taken into account in that part of the justice system undergoing radical overhaul.


As we noted earlier, restorative justice per se did not feature in the debates surrounding the introduction of family group conferences. But the combination of ideas flowing from Maori critics of conventional justice processes and from victims' advocates, together with a deep dissatisfaction of current youth justice processes, produced a new system that clearly shared the ideas underlying restorative justice. The rest of this article evaluates what this has meant in practice. One important point needs to be made here, however, which is that family group conferences are essentially restorative processes which may or may not result in restorative outcomes. This distinction is crucial and we will comment on it further below.

Family Group Conferences and Young People

The participation of young people in family group conferences goes beyond simply being there. They are, of course, present in any court proceedings involving them; but there, they usually remain passive participants throughout, primarily because the principal players in court are the professionals. This is not so in family group conferences, where youthful offenders, at least in principle, are expected to actively participate in discussions about how best to deal with their offending.

Young people (and families) participating in our research (Maxwell and Morris 1993) on family group conferences were asked a number of key questions: "Did you feel that you made the decision?" "How involved were you in reaching the decisions?" and "In your view, who really decided?" About a third of the young people said that they had felt involved in the process. If responses indicating that the young person felt "partly" involved are added to this, then we can conclude that nearly half of the young people felt involved in some way. They were able to say what they wanted to and to speak openly without pressure. However, almost half felt that they had not been actively involved in the family group conferences and that decisions had been made about them, not with them.5 Technically, outcomes have to be agreed to by all the parties at the conference, but the young person's voice often seems to become subsumed within the family's. It should be noted, however, that even these relatively low rates of involvement in conferences are still considerably higher than young people's involvement in conventional courts (see, for example, Asquith's (1983) discussion of young people's involvement in juvenile courts in England and children's hearings in Scotland).

Family Group Conferences and Families

In the most direct sense, families are involved in family group conferences by being present. But it goes further than this: for example, families should be invited to determine the process and procedures to be followed, who should be invited to participate in the conference, and the venue for the conference. They should also be expected to devise a the plan to deal with the offending. There is no doubt that families do actively participate in conferences. In our research (Maxwell and Morris 1993), almost all conferences had family members present and two fifths had members of the young person's extended family also present (the figure for Maori was much higher: almost 60 percent). More than two thirds of the families interviewed felt that they had been involved in the process of the family group conference and about the same proportion of families identified themselves as the decision-makers, at least in part.6 Less than a fifth said that they had not felt involved in what happened.

Bringing victims and offenders together for a family group conference was a constructive process for most families. Few families found the presence of the victim to be at all unusual or inappropriate. Moreover, many commented that they viewed the victim's presence positively, because of the possibility of reconciling the victim and the offender, and because the victim's contribution could help teach the young person to accept responsibility and to be accountable for what he or she had done.

Overall, there was little doubt that families preferred the process of family group conferences to the process of courts. Their comments highlighted the participatory nature of the family group conference process and the greater degree of support available to them at the family group conference in contrast to the stress that accompanied a court appearance. As well as feeling more comfortable at the family group conference, families also understood more of what had happened and believed that it provided a more realistic forum for decision-making.

Thus, through conferencing, families are not only expected but enabled to participate in the decisions that are made when their children offend. In this way, 'making parents responsible' can be given a constructive meaning. Conferencing offers a participatory option that empowers families and allows them, without increasing the stigma or blame, to play a pivotal role in arriving at decisions about their children.

Family Group Conferences and Victims

Victims can also feel involved in conferences by being present at the conference. Though our research (Maxwell and Morris 1993) indicated that victims attended only about half of the family group conferences, the reasons for this were related primarily to poor practice: they were not invited, the time was unsuitable for them, or they were given inadequate notice of the family group conference. Good practice suggests that victims should be consulted about the time and venue of conferences and informed of them in good time. There will always be a minority of victims who choose not to participate in conferencing, but our (Maxwell and Morris 1993) research found that only 6 percent of victims, when asked, said that they did not wish to meet the offender. This is a clear indicator of victims' willingness, indeed desire, to be involved in these processes.

Our research also showed that, when victims were involved in conferencing, many found it a positive process. About 60 percent of the victims interviewed described the family group conference they attended as helpful, positive, and rewarding. Generally, they said that they were effectively involved in the process and felt better as a result of participating. Victims also commented on two other specific benefits for them. First, it provided them with a voice in determining appropriate outcomes. Second, they were able to meet the offender and the offender's family face-to-face, so that they could assess their attitude, understand better why the offense had occurred, and assess the likelihood of its recurring.

About a quarter of the victims said that they felt worse as a result of attending the family group conference. There were a variety of reasons for this. The most frequent and perhaps the most important was that the victim did not feel that the young person and/or his or her family were truly sorry. Other less common reasons included the inability of the family and young person to make reparation, the victims' inability to express themselves adequately, the difficulty of communicating cross-culturally, a lack of support for them in contrast to the support given to offenders, feeling that their concerns had not been adequately listened to and feeling that other participants were disinterested in or unsympathetic to them. These findings point again to the need for good practice guidelines. Most of the concerns expressed by victims can be addressed through briefing the participants about what to expect at a conference and training the managers of the process to be effective mediators. The concerns raised were not fundamental objections to conferencing per se.

Satisfaction with Outcomes

We asked participants about their satisfaction with the outcomes of the family group conference. Understanding what people actually mean when they answer such questions has proved problematic for researchers but this is, by definition, the most important measure of how participants view the processes in which they participate. The failure to deconstruct the concept of 'satisfaction' almost certainly reflects the fact that people vary in both their level of expectation and the type of outcomes they view as appropriate; hence, their 'satisfaction' cannot be predicted from examining outcomes alone. In reporting the results of answers to these questions we have, therefore, attempted to tease out the various factors that affected the satisfaction of young people, families, and victims. But first, we set out in Table 1 the responses of the young people, families, and victims in our sample on their satisfaction with outcomes from the family group conference.

Eighty-four percent of the young people and 85 percent of the parents said that they were satisfied with the outcomes of the family group conference. The levels of satisfaction were high regardless of whether or not the case was referred by the Youth Court or directly by the police. Only a few young people (9 percent) and parents (11 percent) actually expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome. For parents, the issues seem to have been either that the young person "got off too lightly" or, more commonly, that some kind of help or treatment they thought necessary was not offered. For the young people, the issue was almost invariably how their outcome compared with that of co-offenders or, more generally, with their notion of appropriate penalties.

It is possible also that young people's and parents' high level of satisfaction meant nothing more than relief that nothing worse happened to the young person. There is some support for this suggestion. Young people who received the most severe penalties were almost three times as likely to express dissatisfaction as those receiving less severe penalties, and the parents of those receiving the most severe penalties were twice as likely to express dissatisfaction as the parents of young people who received less severe penalties.

About half of the victims we interviewed7 said that they were satisfied with the outcomes from conferences. About a third, however, were dissatisfied. For some, this was because they saw the decision of the family group conference as too soft or too harsh. But, more frequently, victims were dissatisfied because the promised arrangements fell down afterwards or they were simply never informed about the eventual outcome of the family group conference. The responsibility for this lay more often with professional staff than with the young person and his or her family. Victims were less satisfied with outcomes than the professionals and families, but even this lower figure is probably higher than the levels of satisfaction victims would express after court hearings and sentences by judges.

Family Group Conferences and Accountability

About 85 percent of the young people in our sample who took part in family group conferences agreed to carry out what we have called 'active penalties', that is to say community work, reparation and the like. If we add 'apologies' to this, the figure comes closer to 95 percent. Before the 1989 Act, a similar proportion of young people appeared before the court as appear now at family group conferences, but only 60 percent of them received an 'active' penalty, and apologies to victims were uncommon. On the other hand, custodial or residential penalties are rarely recommended by today's family group conferences. Thus more young people are made accountable than in the past, but in ways that emphasize restoration.

Family Group Conferences and Reconviction

We analyzed data on the reconviction of the original 1990-91 family group conference sample (Morris and Maxwell 1997) up to December 1994. A matching sample against which to compare these data is not available. However, our general conclusion after reviewing other local and overseas reconviction studies is that the proportion reconvicted in the first year following a family group conference (26 percent) is certainly no worse and is possibly better than samples dealt with in the criminal justice system.

Furthermore, there is some evidence from this study that the probability ofreconviction was reduced when certain of the potentially restorative aspects of family group conferences were achieved. The factor 'victim satisfaction' was least often reported for persistent recidivists; this group was also least likely to have completed the tasks agreed to at the family group conference.

Regression analysis also suggested that those offenders who failed to apologize to victims were more likely to be reconvicted than those who had apologized. The initial modeling of whether or not reconviction occurred identified the following as independent significant predictors: offending prior to the family group conference; being Maori; having extended family orwhanau present at the family group conference; the failure to apologize; and the greater seriousness and number of family group conference offenses. Odds ratios were calculated. The results of this regression analysis are set out in Table 2.

Table 2
  1. Stepwise Logistic Regression to Predict Reconviction (n=154)
Probability of chi-square
Odds Ratio

Offending prior to FGC




Extended family present


No apology


Greater seriousness of FGC offense


More FGC offenses


Table 2 shows that most of the significant factors8 that emerged in the regression analysis were between two and four and a half times more likely to be found among those reconvicted than among those who were not. Thus, for example, those who failed to apologize were three times more likely to be reconvicted than those who had apologized.

The offense-related variables identified here are comparable to those identified in previous studies of reconviction; the relevance of ethnicity has also been previously identified. In addition, two factors related to the family group conference also emerged: having extended family or whanau present and making an apology. 'Having extended family or whanau present' can be interpreted as reflecting the gravity with which the offense was regarded by the family and statutory agencies. But the emergence of failing to apologize as a predictor of reconviction is a new and important finding, which provides support for theories of restorative justice. However, it is not a secure finding as it did not emerge as a significant variable in the original analysis and its importance may be linked to other factors in the regression.

A second regression was calculated to model the variables that might predict the difference between the two most distinctive groups: the 'persistent' and the 'non-reconvicted' groups. The first point to note is that a stronger prediction is possible for the persistent versus the non-reconvicted group because the difference between these two groups is much sharper than the difference between reconvicted and non-reconvicted. The solution identified a slightly different pattern of variables from the earlier analysis. Table 3 sets out the results of this regression.

Table 3
Stepwise Logistic Regression to Predict "Persistence" (N=101)9


Probability of chi square
Odds Ratio

Welfare services provided




Victims not present at the FGC


Offending prior to FGC


More FGC offenses


The significant independent predictors were in order of significance and direction of association with persistent reconviction: having welfare services provided; being Maori; victims not being present at the family group conference; offending prior to the family group conference; and the greater number of family group conference offenses. The seriousness of the offending was rather less important with a probability of only .09. Odds ratios show that most of these factors were between four and four and a half times more probable among those who were in the persistent group compared to those who were not reconvicted. But offending prior to the family group conference was nearly 14 times more probable among the persistently reconvicted.

These variables, although slightly different, are consistent in meaning with those identified in Table 2. 'Welfare services', which was correlated with 'extended family or whanau present', has emerged in its place and 'victim present' has replaced the correlated variable 'apology'. This analysis increases confidence in the earlier interpretation of what predicts reconviction and indicates that prediction is more successful when the groups are more highly contrasted with respect to their reconviction patterns.

Family Group Conferences as Restorative Processes Not Restorative Outcomes

The family group conference is a mechanism for making decisions about how best to deal with a young person's criminal behavior. To the extent that it involves the young person, the victim, and their respective communities of interest in this decision, then that process can be described as restorative. Outcomes may, and often do, include putting things right for victims. For example, the young person or his or her family may make reparation to the victim, or the young person may perform some community work either for the victim or for an organization or person nominated by the victim. To this extent, outcomes may also be restorative. But outcomes might also involve counseling or some other program for the young person, while the victims' needs remain unmet. And, too often in our experience, promised outcomes have not been delivered (usually as a result of some failure on the part of professionals rather than on the part of the young persons and/or their families). Moreover, it was not uncommon for victims to express satisfaction at the end of the family group conference or immediately afterwards, only to express dissatisfaction some time down the track. Such outcomes can not be described as restorative. These need not, however, detract from the power and potential of the process as a restorative one.


There are clearly different models of conferencing in operation in different jurisdictions.10 The New Zealand model of conferencing was strongly influenced by traditional Maori concepts of conflict resolution. It is used for all medium-serious and serious offending (except murder and manslaughter) and operates both as an alternative to court processing and as a mechanism for making recommendations to judges prior to sentence. On the other hand, the models of conferencing adopted in some parts of Australia (specifically in Wagga Wagga11 and in Canberra) and copied in some areas of the United States12 are explicitly based on Braithwaite's (1989) notion of 'reintegrative shaming',13 and are used on a selective basis only for non serious offending; they operate solely as an alternative to court processing.

There are differences also in the ways in which these models have been translated into practice. For example, in some jurisdictions, conferencing is managed by the police, in some by the courts, in some by social welfare, and in some by voluntary organizations. The offender is the central focus in some jurisdictions; in others, it is the victim. Thus, not all systems of conferencing conform with the principles underlying restorative justice; and not all systems of conferencing can act as case studies of restorative justice. However, in our view, family group conferences in New Zealand do so: the principles underlying family group conferences there include important elements of a restorative justice approach. They demonstrate a concern for victims as well as offenders and emphasize restoring the social balance.

In practice, our research on family group conferences showed that:

  • victims were willing and able to participate in restorative justice processes;
  • a significant proportion of victims felt positively toward the process and were satisfied with the outcomes;
  • offenders were held accountable;
  • reconviction rates were no worse and may be better than for court-based samples; and
  • factors in restorative justice processes may be linked to a lower probability of reconviction.

These encouraging findings and the fact that restorative justice processes are already being used in New Zealand in a variety of shapes and forms, both within and outside the criminal justice system, provides a sufficient basis for New Zealand to move further forward in the implementation of restorative justice processes for adult offenders. They also enable other countries wishing to move towards more restorative approaches to consider family group conferences as a useful strategy.


1. The youth justice system in New Zealand deals primarily with 14 to 17 year olds who offend, but can, in certain situations, deal with offending by those aged 10 to 14.

2. People in other jurisdictions often ask about whether or not there are certain cases for which family group conferences are not appropriate, for instance very serious offenses. In New Zealand all cases involving young offenders will have a family group conference so that the views of families and victims can be heard. However, the Youth Court has the right to review the cases and to make a different disposition from that recommended if there are grounds for this and, for the most serious offenses, the Youth Court can refer the matter to the adults courts for sentence. The Youth Court will also decide when participants at the conference fail to agree. Cases of murder and manslaughter are dealt with in the High Court.

3. Family group conferences also take place in the 'care and protection' system which deals with children who have been abused or neglected. These are managed differently from youth justice family group conferences. For information, see Hudson et al. (1996).

4. One example of the confusion that can exist about professional roles is provided in a recent analysis of the role of youth advocates (Morris et al. 1997).

5. Although about a quarter of the young people said they did not know who had decided the outcome, the group most frequently identified by them as the decision-makers was their family. This was stated by about a third.

6. The professionals alone were identified as the decision-makers by 15 percent of the families. These professionals seemed not to have accepted a redefined role for themselves: as information providers and support givers rather than decision-makers. This could be resolved by better briefing of professionals about their roles and better training of them in the objectives of conferencing.

7. These interviews somePalatino took place soon after the family group conference but most of them occurred about two to three months later.

8. The significant factors in this context are those that were entered in the logistic stepwise regression at the cut-off point of 5 percent probability.

9. The probabilities are not as low as in the previous example because the numbers are smaller (only the persistent and the no conviction group are being compared). There is also less of a close relationship between the size of the odds ratios and the probabilities, in part because of the smaller numbers but also because of differences in the relative probabilities of being scored as "yes" or "no" on the variable.

10. See Alder and Wundersitz (1994) and Bargen (1995) for a discussion of Australasian models, LaPrairie (1995) for a discussion of the contrasts between Australasian models and sentencing circles in Canada, Hardin (1996) and Immarigeon (1996) for a discussion of the relevance of conferencing for the United States and Hudson et al. (1996) for examples of conferencing in a number of other jurisdictions.

11. The original form of conferencing developed in Wagga Wagga is no longer operative but the model has been very influential in parts of the United States.

12. A newsletter about family group conferencing called REAL JUSTICE FORUM is produced in Philadelphia and claims that 700 individuals have been trained to facilitate such conferences.

13.Stigmatic shaming is a recognized part of the criminal justice system; many of its rituals serve to signify the separation and segregation of defendants. In 'reintegrative shaming', at least in theory, the offense rather than the offender is condemned and the offender is reintegrated with rather than rejected by society.


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Asquith, Stewart. 1983. Children and Justice: Decision-making in Children's Hearings and Juvenile Courts. Edinburgh: University Press.

Bargen, Jenny. 1995. "A Critical View of Conferencing." The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Special Supplementary Issue, 100-103.

Braithwaite, John. 1989. Crime, Shame and Reintegration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Durie, Edward. 1995. "Custom Law," unpublished manuscript.

Hardin, Mark. 1996. Family Group Conferences in Child Abuse and Neglect: Learning from the Experience of New Zealand. Washington: ABA Center on Children and the Law.

Hudson, Joe, Allison Morris, Gabrielle Maxwell, and Burt Galaway, eds. 1996. Family Group Conferences: Perspectives on Policy and Practice. Annandale: Federation Press.

Immarigeon, Russ. 1996. "Family Group Conferences in Canada and the United States: An Overview." Pp. 167-179 in Family Group Conferences: Perspectives on Policy and Practice, edited by Joe Hudson, Allison Morris, Gabrielle Maxwell, and Burt Galaway. Annandale, NSW: Federation Press.

Jackson, Moana. 1988. Maori and the Criminal Justice System: He Whaipaanga Hou: A New Perspective Part 2. Department of Justice, Wellington.

LaPrairie, Carol. 1995. "Altering Course: New Directions in Criminal Justice Sentencing Circles and Family Group Conferences." The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Special Supplementary Issue 78-99.

Maxwell, Gabrielle M. and Morris, Allison. 1993. Families, Victims and Culture: Youth Justice in New Zealand. Wellington: Department of Social Welfare and Institute of Criminology.

________ 1996. "Research on Family Group Conferences with Young Offenders in New Zealand." Pp. 88-110 in Family Group Conferences: Perspectives in Policy and Practice , edited by Joe Hudson, Allison Morris, Gabrielle Maxwell and Burt Galaway. Annandale, NSW: Federation Press.

Morris, Allison and Gabrielle M. Maxwell. 1997. Family Group Conferences and Convictions. Occasional Papers in Criminology New Series, No. 5. Wellington: Institute of Criminology.

Morris, Allison, Gabrielle Maxwell and Paula Shepherd. 1997. Being a Youth Advocate: An Analysis of their Role and Responsibilities. Wellington: Institute of Criminology.

Pratt, John. 1992. Punishment in a Perfect Society: The New Zealand Penal System 1840-1939. Wellington: Victoria University Press.

Allison Morris

Allison Morris is Professor in Criminology and has been the Director of the Institute of Criminology at Victoria University of Wellington since 1993. From 1973 to 1993, she was a lecturer in criminology and then Reader in Criminal Justice at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge. Previously she was a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh for four years. She is a law graduate from the University of Edinburgh, and studied criminology at the University of Cambridge and at Columbia University, New York. She has carried out research on the juvenile justice systems in Scotland, England, and New Zealand. Her main teaching and research areas currently are 'youth and crime', 'women and crime', and 'victims'.

Contact information: Institute of Criminology,Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600,Wellington, New Zealand. Phone number (New Zealand): 4 496 5438; FAX number (New Zealand): 4 495 5147; e-mail:allison.morris@vuw.ac.nz.


Gabrielle Maxwell

Gabrielle Maxwell is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Criminology, Victoria University of Wellington. Previous positions include working for six years with the Office of the Commissioner for Children and for twenty years as a lecturer and senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Otago. She is a psychology graduate from Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Otago. She has carried out research on a number of criminological and psychological topics. Her current research focuses on 'youth and crime', 'crime prevention', and 'legal systems'.

Contact information: Institute of Criminology, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600,Wellington, New Zealand. Phone number (New Zealand): 4 495 5206; FAX number (New Zealand): 4 495 5277; email: gabrielle.maxwell@vuw.ac.nz.

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