Restorative Justice and Sexual Assault: An Archival Study of Court and Conference Cases
Posted: 29 Feb 2008
Date Written: March 2006
As restorative justice has grown in popularity worldwide, mainly in response to youth crime, controversy surrounds its use for sexual, partner and family violence cases. With some exceptions, all jurisdictions have put these offences beyond the reach of restorative justice for both youth and adult offenders and, thus, empirical evidence is lacking. This paper presents findings from an archival study of nearly 400 cases of youth sexual assault, which were finalized in court and by conference or formal caution over a six-and-a-half-year period in South Australia, to address these questions: (1) What differentiates a court from a conference case? (2) What happens once a case goes to court, e.g. what share of cases is dismissed and how do penalties vary for court and conference cases? (3) From a victim's point of view, what appears to be the better option-having one's case go to court or conference? Contrary to the concerns raised by critics of conferencing, from a victim's advocacy perspective, the conference process may be less victimizing than the court process and its penalty regime may produce more effective outcomes.
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