16-year-old Billy* did the wrong thing under the influence of drugs and older peers, but took responsibility for his actions through our Youth Justice Group Conferencing program.
Billy is a 16-year-old boy born in the Northern Territory who moved to Darwin several years ago with with his step-uncle. He had recently started to drink and smoke cannabis more frequently, after being suspended from school on a number of occasions. Sometimes when Billy was under the influence, he would hang out with an older group of men, as all of his friends were at school.
One day when Billy had been drinking with the group of men, they came up with the idea to break into a house down the road. As the men were fleeing the house, taking with them a bike, a computer and alcohol, the homeowner Rick came home and caught Billy. Billy assaulted Rick to get free of his grip before running off after the others, but was caught, arrested, and charged with aggravated robbery. As a result, the Darwin Supreme Court made a referral for Billy to participate in a Youth Justice Group Conference.
Jesuit Social Services contacted Victims of Crime Northern Territory (VOCNT), requesting them to contact Rick to see whether he would be interested in participating in a group conference as part of Billy’s sentence. Rick chose not to attend, as unfortunately it was the third time his house had been broken in to, but he still wanted his voice heard. Instead, VOCNT offered to send a representative on Rick’s behalf, to share how the robbery and assault had affected him. Billy’s lawyer, his Territory Families case worker, his step-uncle and a local community mentor also attended.
Each attendee had an opportunity to speak, sharing their experiences about the offence, including the VOCNT representative, who shared with Billy the distress Rick and his family had suffered, how they feared the harm and injuries Billy could have caused, and how they no longer felt safe in their home. In addition to the physical and emotional harm Rick suffered, the representative mentioned the financial implications caused by having to take time off work due to stress, paying for medical appointments related to his injuries, and the cost of replacing the items stolen. Rick wanted to encourage Billy to think about his actions and reflect on his friendships and what he thinks it means to be a respectful man.