Source: (2004) Journal of Criminal Justice. 32(4): 345-357.

Youth justice conferencing in Queensland, Australia is a process which brings together those people in the community which have been most affected by a criminal offense the offender, the victim, and their supporters, and was established after an amendment in 1996 to the Juvenile Justice Act of 1992. Youth justice conferencing relies on the discretionary referral of young offenders by the police. Since the introduction of conferencing, low rates of police referrals were identified as a critical issue in undermining the successful implementation of conferencing. This study explored Queensland police officers’ training, experience, understandings of youth justice conferencing, and their individual discretionary policing style. In addition, the impact of these factors on officers’ attitudes towards conferencing and their reported likelihood of referring to conference were examined. Of the 600 questionnaires mailed out to randomly selected operational police officers in the Metropolitan North, Metropolitan South, Southeastern, and Southern regions, 184 questionnaires were available for analyses. Of the 184 police officers, 28 reported that they had never heard of conferencing. Of those officers who had heard of conferencing, the majority had received no training in relation to conferencing. Overall, surveyed officers who had heard of conferencing considered it to be a positive process. Those who had received training were more likely to endorse conferencing as a positive process. In addition, exposure to conferencing increased officers’ beliefs in the effectiveness of conferencing and ensured they were familiar with the procedures involved in conferencing. Study limitations are presented and briefly discussed. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service, www.ncjrs.org.