Source: (2010) In, Wayne Taylor, Rod Earle, and Richard Hester, eds, Youth justice handbook: Theory, policy, and practice. Portland: Willan Publishing. pp.243-251.

The signing of the Belfast Agreement by all the major political parties in the province and the British and Irish Governments brought an end to over 30 years of civil conflict. The agreement specified the aims of the criminal justice system. The review of criminal justice was conducted by the Criminal Justice Review Group between June 1998 and March 2000. This group commissioned research into public attitudes toward criminal justice in Northern Ireland, as well as the experience of other jurisdictions regarding a range of key issues, including the application of restorative justice principles within the justice system. The research on restorative justice focused on common-law jurisdictions with experience in restorative justice initiatives, such as New Zealand, England and Wales, and Australia. In addition, restorative justice as practiced in South Africa was reviewed, because, like Northern Ireland, it had experienced intercommunal conflict. As a result of the report of the researchers, the Northern Ireland Office became committed to placing restorative justice at the core of the justice system for young offenders. Loosely based on the New Zealand model of youth conferencing, the Youth Conference Service was launched in Northern Ireland as a pilot program in 2003 as part of the new Youth Justice Agency. Youth are referred by the courts or prosecution service after admitting guilt and giving consent to their involvement in a youth conference. The conferencing process involves a meeting with the young offender, the victim, and others who have been affected by the crime. The focus is on all parties resolving how the youth can make amends to the victim and what can be done to prevent further offending. (excerpt)