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Victims May Not Be Told About Teens’ Rap Sheets

Thursday, 24 March 2005

Victims May Not Be Told About Teen Hoods’ Rap Sheet

Following the revelation last week that the number of youth offenders who had attended two or more family group conferences had more than doubled since 2001, United Future law and order spokesman Marc Alexander has since discovered that victims who participate in such conferences may have no idea of how many conferences the youth has already faced.

According to answers to parliamentary questions from the Minister responsible for Child, Youth and Family, Ruth Dyson, previous offending history is not made available until the young person has had the opportunity to admit or deny the current offences.

Once the young person has admitted the current offending, previous offending history may, if relevant, be made available to the family group conference to enable the development of family group conference plans.

“In other words,” said Mr Alexander, “victims may not know until they appear at a family group conference whether the kid has already been through two, three, four, five or even ten of these already.”

Figures released by Mr Alexander last week showed that since 2001, the number of offenders on their second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and eleventh family group conferences had all increased.

“Many victims would think twice about whether they participate in a family group conference if they knew that previous conferences had already failed to stop the offending.

“Why should they put themselves through the trauma of re-living the crime committed against them, often with the intent of helping the offender, if it’s been shown to have little chance of success in the past?”

Some offenders are referred to family group conferences directly by police and others are referred by the Youth Court after they have been charged with an offence, but either way family group conferences are intended for those who have already committed a number of offences and have breached the initial responses of police cautions and diversions.

A Ministry of Social Development study released last year found that victims often felt unprepared for family group conferences and were less likely to have personal contact with the co-ordinator before the conference than the offender or his/her family. The report also found that commitments made by the offender to apologise or recompense the victim were often not followed through, jeopardising the very purpose of restorative justice.

“Victims who are asked to participate in family group conferences should be made aware of the offender’s history as of right. They deserve nothing less,” said Mr Alexander.


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