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Proposed changes to laws will result in more young people in the criminal justice system

Proposed new laws , listed to be debated in Parliament today, would result in more  young people, often from disadvantaged parts of our community, getting caught up in the criminal justice system.  These proposals come at a critical time when Victoria actually needs to be doing much more to reduce prison numbers and promote reforms to prevent people entering cycles of crime.

In particular our concerns with the Bill are provisions that:

  1. Permits police officers taking DNA samples from children without judicial oversight. We believe the current law provides important and necessary protection to children given their greater vulnerability, the imbalance between a police officer and a child suspect and the potential for undue influence, and
  2. Introduce a new criminal offence of intimidation of officers or a family members that we believe will see over-charging of alleged young offenders (often from disadvantaged parts of our community) potentially in circumstances where the officer or family members were not placed in a state of apprehension or fear, and where the accused did not intend to place the victim in such a state.
  3. The Bill reduces the commercial quantity of heroin from 250 grams to 50 grams and introduces a new offence of trafficking for an organisation. Our concern is that the significant quantity adjustment will put a large number of vulnerable heroin users in the commercial trafficking offence category. People charged as commercial quantity traffickers would no longer have options which help users to rehabilitate, recover from their addiction and be supported to steer away from the criminal justice system.

We urge Victorian parliamentarians to rethink these changes in the Bill that we fear will not promote a safer community (as intended), but  entrench more young people in the crime, who could have remained and been supported in their communities.


Youthlaw’s platform: Victorian state election 2018

In a letter sent this week, Youthlaw calls on all candidates to consider the critical youth justice issues leading up to and beyond the upcoming Victorian election.

We urge candidates to back Youthlaw’s platform and the realistic solutions and evidence of what works to support all young people to have the opportunity to realise their potential.

We highlight the disturbing statistic that 60% of young people in child prisons are from communities that are significantly disadvantaged, dislocated and often excluded.

We stress that it is imperative that our leaders are vocal in their condemnation of growing racial abuse directed at these communities.

We emphasise the need to assist a significant and growing number of vulnerable young people across Victoria and address disadvantage and exclusion of their communities.

We also highlight the substantial increase in youth and adult prison numbers over the past 10 years and the high return rate to prison.

We remind candidates that prison is largely ineffective and very costly and that building more prisons is clearly unsustainable.

We call for a solution that redirects investment in prisons toward community-based initiatives that deal with the underlying causes of crime. Justice reinvestment is an internationally proven approach that builds community capacity, reduces crime, and saves taxpayer’s money.

We caution candidates about the harms of introducing harsh laws to deal with a small but high offending cohort of young people in Victoria. Laws that reverse the onus of bail and bring in mandatory sentencing for example will have unintended impacts & net widen, bringing more young Victorians in contact wit the criminal justice system.

We call on candidates to commit to scrutinising all laws that negatively impact on young people & uphold their human rights.

We also call on all candidates to publicly support increased independent investigation of police complaints and the resourcing and  implementation of the IBAC committee’s recommendations.

Police complaints overhaul

We welcome the IBAC parliamentary committee report on the Victorian police complaints system, released on 4th September 2018 .

As you may know Youthlaw has been campaigning for independent investigation of police complaints, for many years  This year Youthlaw and many other CLCs made submissions & spoke to  the IBAC parliamentary committee .

The report recs if implemented  are a big positive step towards independent investigation of complaints . Key recs are that the gov’t funds IBAC  to set up a police complaints division and that they are required to undertake complete investigation of all serious police misconduct complaints .

See media coverage


We are working with the other legal services to ensure the report recs are implemented .  This will include further advocacy if needed.  We are concerned that the definition of ‘serious police complaints’ will not cover much of the serious mistreatment young people report. If this is the case we and others will be strongly advocating for a broader definition to be legislated.

The gov’t has announced they are putting the report on hold for 6 months until after the election.

If you want to read the report here is the link


Anti-consorting laws trample basic human rights

Anti- Association laws are currently being debated in the Vic Parliament .  The Vic gov’t got rid of consorting laws a decade ago – They were regarded as unfairly criminalising those whose only crime was to associate & socialise with people with a criminal reputation.

Following other states the Vic gov’t introduced anti -association laws in 2012 to deal with bikie gangs . The Vic Gov’t introduced anti-association laws in 2016 , to deal with bikie gangs.

The new bill seeks to amend the law to deal with youth crime.   The opposition supports ant-association laws and says they will have no hesitation introducing even tougher laws with severe sentences.

The changes being introduced seriously erode basic rights we take for granted . They will particularly impact populations that are heavily policed including indigenous and African people.

Young person as young as 14 and without a criminal record are the new target of these laws. They will be subjected to police surveillance . They will be stigmatised . Sadly for some the notice will probably become a badge of honour and be the driver for them to offend. A breach of a notice to not associate will have serious consequences – up to 3 years imprisonment .

We have called on the Victorian Scrutiny and Regulation Committee ( SARC) to find the bill before parliament inconsistent with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights & Responsibilities, as they should .

See our submission  Youthlaw SARC submission – Anti- Association .. Bill 2018

See the joint submission by the Federation of Community Legal Centres, The Law Institute & the Human Rights Law Centre 180803_ALHR_HR_SARC_JusticeLegislationUnlawfulAssoc_FINAL (PDF)

If you want to join with others to oppose the laws see the Federation of community Legal centres website for details