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CRC funded reports

Australian Capital Territory

Published in: Restorative justice programs in Australia : a report to the Criminology Research Council
Heather Strang
March 2001

Characteristics of the program

Conferencing on the police-run 'Wagga' model was introduced as a pre-court diversion in the ACT by the Australian Federal Police in 1994. Admitted offenders are referred to the program entirely at the discretion of the apprehending police officer; as yet there is no governing legislation for the program. Offences excluded from eligibility are serious violent offences, all sexual offences, weapons offences, drug offences, drink driving offences and offences related to family violence. To date over two thousand conferences have been conducted.

Conferences are conducted by trained police officers. Conference participants include the offender and a minimum of four supporters, the victim and supporters if they wish to attend, together with the facilitator who may also invite the apprehending police officer, an interpreter or anyone else who may assist the conference.

Implementation and administration

The program is run entirely by the police with a small dedicated unit involved in receiving referrals from apprehending police officers. It is informally regarded as a disposition located between cautioning and court: most cases (including all those involved in the evaluation) would otherwise have been dealt with in court.

Evaluation

The ACT program has been the subject of a rigorous evaluation study conducted by the Australian National University, known as the Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE). The research design for the study is a randomised controlled trial comparing the effectiveness of conferencing with normal court processing of young property and violent offenders and of drink drivers. The outcome measures are comparative rates of recidivism, comparative victim satisfaction, perceptions of procedural justice by both victims and offenders, and comparative costs. The first analysis of reoffending rates, comparing offending in the 12 months prior to entry into the study with 12 months after, indicated mixed results. Conferencing of drink drivers actually resulted in a slightly, but significantly, higher rate of reoffending for those who had been assigned to a conference compared with those assigned to court. For juvenile property offenders, there was no significant difference between the two groups. However, for young violent offenders, those assigned to a conference reoffended at a significantly lower rate, committing 38 fewer offences per 100 offenders per year than those assigned to court (Sherman et al 2000). Broadly speaking, the program has been found to be more satisfying than court for victims and is perceived by both victims and offenders as fairer than court (Sherman et al 1998, Strang et al 1999). Information on costs will be available shortly.

Publications

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