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Printed: 26/04/2024
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Last updated: 01/07/2019

Restorative justice and the family group conference – section 258(2)

A family group conference convened for an alleged offence by te tamaiti can consider whether they should be prosecuted for the offence or whether they can be dealt with in some other way, including restorative justice.

Upcoming changes for this guidance

This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from ​Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this guidance. The following resources provide support:
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What restorative justice is

Restorative justice is a process that provides opportunities for both the victim and the person who has offended against them to find ways to hold that person accountable for their offending and try to repair the harm caused to the victim and community.

Restorative justice enables victims to:

  • meet or communicate with the person who has offended against them to explain the real impact of the crime
  • feel empowered to participate effectively in dialogue or mediation
  • take an active role in directing the exchange that takes place, as well as defining the responsibilities and obligations of those who have offended.

Effective restorative justice processes enable healing and restoration for victims and tamariki and can play an important role in reducing the likelihood of te tamaiti re-offending. Achieving restorative justice also requires a strong voice of te tamaiti at the family group conference. Strengthening their voice and that of the victim at the conference supports a child-centred and victim-focused approach to the process of the youth justice family group conference.

Examples of restorative justice actions within a family group conference

  • Te tamaiti apologising to the victim – in person or by letter
  • Te tamaiti making a gift for the victim or donating to a charity of the victim’s choosing
  • Te tamaiti and their whānau or family paying reparation to the victim or working for the victim as compensation
  • Victims explaining to te tamaiti how they have been affected and having a say in how the harm can be repaired
  • Te tamaiti understanding the harm that has been caused to the victim
  • Giving te tamaiti the opportunity to make amends in their own way
  • Whānau being part of any action or process including cultural approaches to restorative justice

When it happens

Restorative justice actions must be considered at all family group conferences convened under section 247(a), (b), (d) and (e) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

Youth justice coordinator to convene family group conference – section 247 of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Who does it

The youth justice coordinator has the primary responsibility for convening the family group conference and must ensure that the potential for restorative justice actions is fully explored with the participants during the preparation for the conference and during the conference itself.

How to do it

The youth justice coordinator helps facilitate discussion about restorative justice actions as part of convening the youth justice family group conference, holding the conference and developing the plan.

1 Engage with the victim, te tamaiti and their whānau or family

When convening a family group conference, the youth justice coordinator:

  • explains what restorative justice is to each participant
  • checks that they understand the concept
  • works with the participants to identify different restorative justice actions that may be considered at the family group conference
  • strongly encourages each person to attend the conference
  • explains that there is also a formal restorative justice process that can be arranged with community-based providers that can be progressed after the family group conference if appropriate and if everyone agrees.

List of restorative justice providers | Ministry of Justice

Face-to-face discussion is always preferred when convening the family group conference. If this isn’t possible, the youth justice coordinator must have a phone conversation with the participants.

2 Ensure restorative justice actions are discussed at the conference

The youth justice coordinator provides a safe environment for full and meaningful participation in the family group conference for the victim, te tamaiti and their whānau or family. The coordinator strives to create an environment at the conference that helps to change the balance of power between the victim and te tamaiti and has a focus to put right the wrongs.

The family group conference considers and agrees (or not) to restorative justice actions being included in the plan.

The youth justice coordinator reminds the conference that, when considering those actions, they must be weighed against the 4 primary considerations for all youth justice practice including family group conferences:

  1. the wellbeing and best interests of te tamaiti and
  2. the public interest (which includes public safety) and
  3. the interests of any victims and
  4. the accountability of te tamaiti for their behaviour.

Objects – section 4A(2) of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Principles to be applied in exercise of powers conferred by this Act – section 5 of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Principles – section 208 of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

The exploration of restorative justice options should be documented in CYRAS as evidence that the youth justice coordinator has met their obligations.

3 Include any agreed actions in the plan

If the family group conference participants develop restorative justice actions and agree to include them in the family group conference plan, the youth justice coordinator writes them in the plan and includes the following details:

  • what the action is

  • the name of te tamaiti who is to complete it

  • the person responsible for making sure it is implemented

  • the timeframe for completion

  • the person responsible for ensuring the action is completed.

Family group conference may make decisions and recommendations and formulate plans – section 260 of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989