Taimi Tonu - Just in Time: an Evaluation of Tonga's Restorative Youth Diversion Scheme
In November of 2006, a number of young people under the age of 18 were involved in rioting that destroyed a large portion of the Kingdom of Tonga's capital city, Nuku'alofa. The Government of Tonga (GoT) responded by implementing a youth diversion scheme (YDS) based on the principles and practices of restorative justice.
The intention was that through the YDS, youth could be held accountable for their actions whilst avoiding time consuming and life damaging criminal prosecutions. This thesis evaluated the YDS to determine what its outcomes were and whether the continuation of the scheme would provide the Tongan justice system with an effective tool for addressing youth in conflict with the law. Literature on how the Tongan justice system addressed youth in conflict with the law prior to the YDS, is reviewed and barriers to effectiveness are identified. Literature relating to the design of the YDS, restorative justice and aspects of New Zealand's own youth justicesystem is also reviewed and used to develop YDS evaluation criteria. Data on the YDS has been collected from records, interviews with those involved and observations of practice. This data is evaluated and the outcomes are assessed for their effectiveness in responding to youth in conflict with the law. The study concludes that the YDS is an effective tool for responding to youth inconflict with the law. It provides an effective alternative to punitive responses to youth offending; it advances compliance with a number of those international human rights provisions relevant to the protection of youth in conflict with the law; it has relieved pressure on a backlogged criminal justice system; and it enabled 34 of 35youth to be held accountable for their actions without recourse to criminal prosecution. At the same time a number of challenges were identified that could impede its ability to sustain these outcomes. Nevertheless, the YDS achievedconsiderable success and provides Tonga with a unique tool for effectively responding to youth in conflict with the law.