A conference involves the bringing together of people who are interested in a particular youth, who are responsible for that youth or who are affected by the youth’s actions. The YCJA allows for each province to establish rules on how conferences will work (section 19).
Examples of conferences include a family conference and a case (inter-agency) conference. Benefits from conferences include:
Conferences are advisory only; they do not make decisions.
A conference can be called by a youth justice court judge, the provincial director, a police officer, a justice of the peace, a crown prosecutor or a youth worker (section 19).
A conference is called to give advice on (section 19(2)):
i) Extrajudicial measures;
This can help to reduce the number of youth who are brought into the formal system. A conference can provide a better understanding of why the youth committed the crime when the people responsible for that youth get together to discuss the situation. They can talk about how the youth could be held accountable outside of the formal court process. This group can also recommend the best response to the youth’s behaviour because they understand the needs of the youth.
ii) Conditions for judicial interim release;
The conference can make recommendations to the court about:
- alternatives to detention;
- conditions for release, as well as possibilities for supervision;
- who could act as a responsible person;
iii) Sentences (including sentence reviews);
The conference is asked to make recommendations to the judge about the best sentence.