Young offenders taking part in supervised meetings with their Western Australian victims are finding the experience more daunting than appearing in court.
Both the victims and offenders benefit from the court-supervised process, which enables victims to confront offenders to receive apologies and offenders to better appreciate the consequences of their crimes.
In some cases the offender and parents agreed to provide restitution to the victims in the form of cash or work.
Community Services Minister Eric Ripper said today these were some of the findings of an evaluation, after 12 months, of the Department for Community Service's pilot Offender Reparation scheme.
Mr Ripper said the results were encouraging and warranted the continuation of the scheme, together with consideration of expanding it to a number of other areas of the State.
"This reparation process could be further expanded by the introduction of a system based on the New Zealand Family Group Conference Scheme," the Minister said.
"As a forerunner to this, the Government will establish juvenile justice teams in four pilot areas of the State by the end of the year."
Children's Court Magistrates had referred 97 young offenders to the Reparation Schemes which currently operated in Midland, Northam and Bunbury. Seventy-one reparations had been successfully concluded.
"Only offenders considered suitable are recommended by the magistrates, and the initial choice to take part rests with the victim and offender. Some victims do not wish to take part, and should the offenders refuse to participate, they are still dealt with by the Court."
Department for Community Services mediators closely supervised the victim-offender meetings and the negotiated outcome had to be ratified by the court. A written report on the results of the reparation meeting was taken into consideration by the magistrate when sentencing the offender.
A survey, completed by 31 victims who participated in the Midland scheme, showed that more than two-thirds felt better for having taken part. The vast majority of offenders found the experience difficult but gained better respect for the seriousness of their actions.
"This initiative brings offenders face-to-face with the people they have disadvantaged and the results show the offenders are mortified by the suffering they caused. The evaluation shows that the scheme successfully provides victims with greater direct involvement in the judicial process and helps them resolve their feelings about offences."
Mr Ripper said the reparation schemes were part of the Government's comprehensive and balanced approach to juvenile crime and its commitment to better address the needs of victims.
"This commitment is further demonstrated by the expansion of the Victims' Support Unit, the institution of a Charter of Victims' Rights, victim empathy programs in juvenile detention centres and the tailoring of Community Service and Conditional Release Orders to the needs of victims," he said.