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Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002

Section 58: Diversionary youth conferences

119.A reference to a diversionary youth conference can be made by the Director of Public Prosecutions (and only the Director) and will be made at an early stage, either before proceedings had been instituted for the offence or shortly after (new Article 10A(1)). The decision as to whether to refer the child and offence to a diversionary youth conference is for the Director, but he can only make a reference if the child admits that he has committed the offence (new Article 10A(3)). If a reference is made no further steps may be taken in relation to proceedings against the child for the offence until the youth conference is completed or terminated (new Article 10A(5)). As the youth conferencing provisions are to be introduced area by area, the Director may only make a reference if he has been notified that the provisions have been brought into force in the area in which the child lives or will live (new Article 10A(4)).

120.The youth conference co-ordinator may make one of three recommendations (Article 10A(2)). One of these is that the child be subject to a youth conference plan, in which case the youth conference co-ordinator will submit a plan (as agreed by the child and any other person required to agree by new Article 10C) to the Director. The Director must decide whether to accept the youth conference plan or not. If he accepts it, no further steps in any proceedings against the child for the offence may be taken unless the child fails to comply with the youth conference plan to a significant extent (new Article 10A(7)). The child’s compliance is monitored by the youth conference co-ordinator or other person nominated by the Secretary of State, and this person must report to the Director on the child’s compliance (new Article 10D). If the Director rejects the plan, or if he accepts it but the child fails to comply to a significant extent, or if the conference is unable to agree a plan, the Director can institute or continue the proceedings against the child in the normal way. For the purpose of calculating any time limits for instituting proceedings, the period taken by the diversionary youth conference and compliance with any youth conference plan is to be disregarded (new Article 10B(4)).

121.The Director may refer any offence to a youth conference, i.e. there is no restriction on referring even the most serious offences. However, the youth conference can recommend to the Director that the child should not be the subject of a youth conference plan at this stage but that proceedings should be instituted in the normal way (new Article 10A(2)(b)). Equally, the youth conference may recommend that no further action should be taken against the child (new Article 10A(2)(a)).

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