This research provides insights into the operation of, and outcomes from, ‘Intention-to-Charge’ (ITC) Family Group Conferences (FGCs).
The research also examines the content of ‘diversionary plans’, whether plans are completed, and what happens when they are not. Attendance at ITC FGCs by family/whānau and victims is also examined.
The report includes a discussion of the findings, including suggestions for topic areas that could usefully be investigated further.
Unless a young person has been arrested and charged, Police cannot institute proceedings in court against a young person who has allegedly offended unless an ITC FGC has been held.
A core function of the ITC FGC is to consider whether the young person should be prosecuted or whether the offending can be dealt with in some other way, such as with a diversionary plan. Ideally, this decision should be agreed to by all those present.
This project involved the manual review of ITC FGC and court-related documents and case-notes in CYRAS. Data was captured in Excel in a structured format to assist with data analysis. The proceedings of FGCs are privileged and not to be published (s271), but this research utilised the s38 exemption which allows the publication of results of bona fide research relating to FGCs. Information must be aggregated in such a way that the particulars of the proceedings at any FGC are not identifiable.
The focus for this study was on the ITC FGCs held in the period 1 January to 30 August 2019. This period was chosen as, when the data collection phase commenced in early-2020, enough time had elapsed since the FGCs were held for
most plans to be completed, or other actions taken.
Due to time and resource constraints, a simple random sample of 250 ITC FGCs was initially selected for review from the 706 that were held during this period. However, the resources available to undertake the data collection were further limited by the COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions, so a decision was made in June 2020 to reduce the target sample size to 175.
With this sample size (175 from a total of 706), the maximum margin of error for the proportions presented in the report is ±6% (at the 95% level of confidence). Appendix 1, Table A1.1 shows that the composition of the random sample of 175 ITC FGCs is representative of the population of all 706 ITC FGCs held in the eightmonth period.
Initial decisions at the ITC FGC
- For half of the ITC FGCs, the decision was made to lay charges in court.
- For 47% of the ITC FGCs, the decision was to develop a diversionary plan.
- Initial decisions made at ITC FGCs differed according to young peoples’ ethnicity, although this may be explained by other factors.
Diversionary plan completion
Of the 83 diversionary plans put in place at ITC FGCs:
- 70% (58) were successfully completed
- 10% (8) were not completed and Police subsequently laid charges in court
- 20% (17) were not completed and the matters did not appear to be taken further.
- One-third of all ITC FGC offending matters were closed by way of successful diversionary plans, without recourse to the courts.
- More than half (54%) of all ITC FGC offending matters were finalised in court.
- The remaining 13% of all ITC FGC matters ended without charges being laid or a diversionary plan being completed.
Diversionary plan content
Holding young people accountable and addressing victims’ interests:
- Most (87%) of the 67 diversionary plans where there were victims involved, included the young person making an apology to the victim.
- Reparation was included in 47% of the 45 plans where there was an identified financial loss to a victim.
- A little over 40% of the 83 plans included the young person doing unpaid community work as part of the consequences for the offending.
Addressing the causes of offending for young people:
- Most (86%) of the 83 plans included elements relating to engagement in education, training or employment.
- Two-thirds of the 83 plans included items relating to the young person’s health.
- Mentoring was included in nearly half of the 83 diversionary plans.
- Parenting education referrals were included in 14% of the 83 plans.
- Other elements included in some plans varied widely
Family/whānau participation at the ITC FGC
- Two-thirds of the 175 ITC FGCs had two or more family/whānau members present. However, 26% had only one member of the young person’s family/whānau in attendance, and 7% had none attending.
- The young person’s mother was by far the most likely to attend (71%), with the young person’s father being present at only one-third of ITC FGCs.
Victim engagement in the ITC FGC process
- The potential for involvement of victims in the ITC FGC process is high, given that most referrals included identified victims.
- Three-quarters of the 360 victims identified in referrals were individuals (39% male and 37% female), and 15% were businesses.
- Most individuals whose age group could be identified or estimated were adults, but around 16% were young people or children.
- Twenty-one percent of the 360 victims physically attended the ITC FGC, 28% provided a submission, and 51% did not participate in the FGC process. Businesses had the lowest rate of attending ITC FGCs.