The decision whether or not to refer a young person to a diversionary conference is for the Public Prosecution Service to make, but these conferences can only take place where the offender has admitted the offence. A diversionary conference is a meeting or a series of meetings held to consider how a young person should be dealt with for an offence. A conference plan will be produced, which will be presented to the prosecutor for their approval. If the prosecutor accepts the plan, it must then be complied with by the young offender. However, if the young offender fails to comply or the prosecutor doesn't accept the plan, then the prosecutor can refer the case to court.
Diversionary conferences are organised by the Youth Justice Services directorate of the Youth Justice Agency. The aim is to provide a forum of discussion with the offender, the victim, and anyone else affected by the crime. Discussions at the conference provide the opportunity for victims to explain the impact of the crime on their lives, and for the offender to make amends and be held accountable for their offence. The conference plan could consist of one of the following:
- an apology to the victim;
- reparation to the victim or to the community;
- payment to the victim in compensation;
- supervision by an adult;
- work or service for the community;
- participation in activities designed to deal with offending behaviour, or to offer training or education, or to deal with problems such as drugs or alcohol;
- restrictions on conduct or whereabouts, eg. curfews;
- treatment for mental problems or for alcohol or drug dependency.