Source: (2009) University of Otago.
The youth justice family group conference (FGC) is a statutory decision making process whereby the young person, their family/whanau, state officials and the victim of the offence come together to decide on a response to offending by that young person. The FGC is an integral part of the youth justice system, involving thousands of young people and their families each year. There is a considerable amount of literature available on the youth justice FGC, most notably in regard to the purported restorative justice nature of the process. However, for a legal process which involves so many young people on a daily basis, there is little information available on the due process rights of young people in the FGC. This thesis seeks to remedy this gap in the research knowledge. Firstly, this thesis establishes the theoretical framework for the rights of the young person in the youth justice system. The historical context and theoretical justification for these rights is considered, and the benchmarks for rights coming from international and national human rights standards are identified. A key theoretical issue is the application of rights to the FGC. It is argued that although the FGC differs in format from the adversarial criminal process, it remains a state process involved in resolving a breach of the criminal law, and thus the young person’s rights should be safeguarded. Secondly, this thesis evaluates legislation, policy and practice relating to the rights of the young person in the FGC. Three key areas of rights are considered: legal assistance, how the offence is proved, and outcomes of the FGC. Reference is made to practice examples derived from observation of the FGC in two centres in New Zealand. Finally, as the FGC is certain to remain an integral part of the youth justice system, recommendations are made as to how legislation and practice could be improved to better safeguard the rights of young people in this process. (author’s abstract)
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