Royal Commission into NT juvenile justice & Commissioner review of Victorian juvenile detention
We welcome the Royal Commission into the Don Dale youth detention centre after the airing of the shocking treatment of young people in the NT Don Dale Youth Detention centre on the ABC program Four Corners on the 25th July 2016. (You can follow its proceedings and watch public hearings here).
We welcome the statement by Victorian Child & Youth Commissioner Liana Buchanan that she instigated a review of the Victorian juvenile detention system.
See the insightful comments from both Victorian Commissioners Liana Buchanan & Andrew Jackomos here.
See article on alternatives to youth detention here.
The crime statistics at the centre of inflammatory media reporting are ‘incidents’ of youth crime. This includes the multiple offending of one person. Reading the headlines you would think that there were more young people offending and that we have a generation of youth out of control. This is not the case.
- The Victorian Crimes Statistics Agency confirms that since 2009-10 there has been a 42 percent decrease in the number of unique offenders aged 10-17 years in Victoria
- 10 to 14 year old offending in Victoria has steadily declined over the past 10 years.
The risk within the current environment is that we will spend much energy fighting to keep the positive aspects of the system, that is a specialist system for youth offenders, Victoria’s unique dual track system for 18-20 year olds, etc, rather than further improve the system.
Sex offenders register
We have written to Attorney – General Pakula about the sex offenders register and have called for amendments to the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 so that registration of young offenders is discretionary not mandatory and to establish a Sex Offenders Registration Review Panel which has powers to terminate registration of a person where it is satisfied that no useful protective purpose is served by the registration continuing.
Age of criminal responsibility
We have called on the Victorian Government and all Australian states and territories to increase the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years, as 12 is the minimum age to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC).
We welcome the strong advocacy from Jesuit Social Services in Victoria for increasing the age from 10 to 12. See their excellent report: Too much too young: Raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 (October 2015) and open letter to Australia’s Attorneys-General (24 October 2015).
Transfer of young people to adult prison & the issue of solitary confinement
We spoke to the media and have advocated strongly for legislation to prevent the transfer of young people under 18 years from youth detention into the adult prison system. We have also commented on solitary confinement of young people in detention whether that is in remand, juvenile or adult detention. As of August 2016 the Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People is conducting a review of juvenile detention.
Cost obstacles to public interest cases
On 2 August 2013 the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria handed down a decision that will assist people to mount a public interest case without fear of being bankrupted.
The legal proceeding related to our test case on police complaints. Our client faced thousands of dollars in costs if he continued to pursue the case. The decision fixed costs either way (win or lose) at $5,000. The decision also set out the reasons for allowing this ‘protective cost order’. These reasons included being in the public interest and that the applicant was not seeking individual compensation. It was a first for Victoria and will be influential nationally, with Australia having no national laws regulating costs in public interest cases. It means that vulnerable people bringing public interest cases will not be discouraged by the fear of significant legal costs if they are not successful.
Court victory hailed by legal campaigners, ABC Radio National PM, 2 August 2013
Melbourne man wins right to take on police without fear of incurring hefty legal costs, ABC News Online, 2 August 2013
Costs waived in police racism hearing, The Age, 2 August 2013