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.