Youthlaw, in partnership with 17 other leading social services, health, legal and youth advocacy organisations from Smart Justice for Young People, have supported a collective response to the current Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System by the Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee (the Inquiry)
Co-Convenors of the coalition Tiffany Overall and Anoushka Jeronimus gave evidence to a public hearing of the Inquiry this week.
They asked the Committee members to imagine a system where there is shared responsibility for preventing offending and re-offending and keeping the community safe – where Government, education, health, social services and communities all work together to provide early support to families and help children develop in positive ways and maintain connection with family, community and education.
Victoria must prioritise early support, intervention and prevention, as the most effective ways to promote health and wellbeing and reduce child and youth offending.
They stressed the importance of ending the criminalisation and overrepresentation in the justice system of Aboriginal children and young people, culturally & linguistically diverse children & young people and young people with experiences of family violence and the out-of-home-care system.
Other key recommendations of the SJ4YP Response are:
- A joined up cross government approach to crime prevention that supports young Victorians to lead safe and fulfilling lives
- A “justice reinvestment” strategy to reduce the number of children at risk of offending
- Building on what we know works to reduce offending and divert children away from the legal system, including cautions, diversion and restorative justice
- Minimise Victoria Police members’ interactions with children and young people and ensure members are accountable for fair, professional conduct within the scope of their roles and appropriately resource independent oversight of complaints of police misconduct
- Victoria raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14
- Victoria legislate to ensure to no child under 16 years can be imprisoned in youth justice detention.
- Detention must be a measure of absolute last resort and for the shortest amount of time possible
- Urgent reform to bail laws so that young people are only exposed to remand in rare and exceptional circumstances, and only young people over the age of 16 years
- Children and young people in youth justice detention facilities must be treated respectfully, humanely and with a focus on rehabilitation, including prohibiting solitary confinement, implementing Government’s obligations pursuant to OPCAT and the provision of an equivalent standard of healthcare to what is available in the community,
- A differentiated response to young people under 25 years in the adult prison system, including by expanding the dual track system to include young adults aged 21 to 25.
- Judges and magistrates meeting critical core competencies and skills to practice and make decisions that are culturally and gender aware/safe, trauma informed, understand child brain and young person development and neuro diversity, best practice engagement with young people, family violence and recidivism.
SJ4YP members supporting this response
Dr Diana Johns, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Melbourne University
CMY Centre for Multicultural Youth
Federation of Community Legal Centres Vic
Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre Inc along with the Police Accountability Project
Inner Melbourne Community Legal
Jesuit Social Services
Melbourne City Mission (MCM)
The Kimberley Foundation
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service
Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic)
YSAS Youth Support – Advocacy Service