Source: (2005) Thesis submitted for degree of Doctor of Philosophy. School of Psychology, University of New South Wales.

Conferencing is a Restorative Justice practice operating in juvenile justice systems in Australia. Some conferences are convened by police, despite research demonstrating that ethnic minority youth often view police as biased or untrustworthy. Justice research in evaluative legal procedures indicates that perceived third party bias and outcomes delivered by a third party affect fairness judgments. Many disputants regard conferences as more fair than court. However, psychological mechanisms underlying fairness judgments in conferences, where offenders participate in outcome decisions, have not been directly investigated. This research program examined the effects of outcome and perceived convenor bias on procedural and distributive justice ratings in conferencing. Past research indicates that people high and low on Hofstede´s power-distance dimension differ in their emphases on outcome and third party bias when forming fairness judgments. This thesis investigated whether power-distance moderated the interactive effect of trust and outcome on fairness judgments in conferences. Study 1 established power-distance variation in a university sample, and similarity with a community sample on perceived police bias. Study 2 confirmed that high power-distance people who consider police biased against them may nonetheless choose to participate in police-convened conferences. Studies 3 and 4 extended previous research examining interactive effects of trust and outcome on justice judgments in evaluative procedures, investigating whether power-distance moderated this effect. No significant effects of power-distance and trust emerged, but the findings demonstrated the importance of outcome fairness (correspondence between outcomes and beliefs) in determining procedural justice. Studies 5, 6 and 7 extended this investigation to conferencing procedures. Studies 6 and 7 employed a computer-simulation, allowing participants to interact with a conference transcript and select outcomes, thereby investigating the effects of trust and power-distance on outcome choice, as well as the effects of trust, power-distance, and outcome on justice evaluations. Studies 5 and 6 were unsuccessful in manipulating bias by varying convenor identity (police versus civilian). Study 7 successfully manipulated bias according to convenor behaviour and revealed that third party bias in conferencing affected outcome choices but not fairness judgments. Results are discussed in terms of implications for culturally-relevant police practices, procedural justice theory and conferencing policy. (author's abstract)

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