Reforms to Youth Justice Laws Brings Qld in Line With UN Convention

Youth Justice Reforms

Teenager under arrestQueensland’s 17 year old offenders are the only youths in the Country being sentenced outside the youth justice system.

By treating 17 year olds as adults in the criminal justice system, Queensland has been inconsistent not only with the rest of the country, but also in breach the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Under proposed youth justice reforms, 17 year olds are to be considered children.  It is anticipated that all children under the age of 18 year will proceed through the Youth Justice System.  The proposed reforms are hoped to reduce the rate of recidivism by diverting the youths from the Adult system and providing assistance.

Benefits

It is well recognised amongst stakeholders that the youth justice system provides:

  1. Greater capacity for offenders to be diverted away from the Court system;
  2. Access to age appropriate education, training and programs;
  3. Age appropriate support and supervision in custody;
  4. Reduced access to the influence of adult offenders; and
  5. The benefit of sentencing principles with prioritise support and rehabilitation in the community.

Children who do not have their basic health and welfare needs being met are at a greater risk of re-offending.  Youth require greater levels of education, training and engagement in employment if they are to avoid the statistics of returning to custody. The youth justice system is better suited to meeting these needs.

Amendment to Youth Justice Act

On 15 September 2016, the Attorney General, Ms D’Ath introduced the Youth Justice and Other Legislation (inclusion of 17 year old Persons) Amendment Bill 2016.  The purpose of the Bill is to recognise that 17 year olds are youths and not adults.  Importantly 17 year olds are to be included in the upper age of a ‘child’ for the purposes of the Youth Justice Act.  The definition of a ‘child’ will now include a person under the age of 18 years.

Commencement

The Bill will commence by proclamation 12 months after passage.  The delay is to account for the need to ensure that necessary planning is undertaken to facilitate a safe and proper transition.

Application

It is envisaged that there will be broadly three categories of youth that the amendment will apply to:

  1. 17 year old charged after proclamation;
  2. 17 year olds subject to current proceedings; and
  3. 17 year olds currently serving a custodial sentence.

17 year olds yet to be charged

This group will be treated as a child for the purpose of the Act.  The traditional application of part 6, division 11 of the Act will continue to govern the principles where a juvenile offender turns 18 prior to the commencement of proceedings.

17 year olds subject to current proceedings

The Bill proposes that the Court will have a discretion as to how to deal with those who are turning 18 close the finalisation of their sentence. The new subsection 390(3) will provide a broad power for a court to make an order or give a direction of ensure that any unanticipated scenarios can be dealt with appropriately.

17 year olds service a sentence

The Bill does not interfere with Sentence Orders made prior to commencement.  It will however, provide for the administration of those orders as 17 year olds in the Youth Justice System rather than the adult system.

If a 17 year old was sentenced to an adult probation order, that order would continue. The supervision of the Order would however be administered as though it were a Youth Justice Probation Order.

Similarly, a 17 year old, sentenced to imprisonment would serve that term of imprisonment in a youth detention centre.  The detention would be subject to the relevant provisions of the Youth Justice Act.  The youth would be released on a Supervised Release Order in place of Parole and/or would transition to an adult corrective services facility on reaching a certain age.

Further Reading

Click here to read more about the Inclusion of 17- year-old Persons Amendment Bill 2016

Disclaimer

This website contains general information about legal matters.  The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such.  You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to legal advice from your lawyer or other professional legal services provider.  You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information on this website.

For specific legal advice you should immediately contact Gatenby Criminal Lawyers on (07) 5580 0120.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

Juvenile Offenders To Be Named and Shamed Under New Laws

Imprisonment no longer a sentence of last resort for childhood offenders in Qld

Imprisonment no longer a sentence of last resort for childhood offenders in Qld

New criminal laws have been passed for juvenile offenders in Queensland with a substantial overhaul of the Qld Childrens Court process.  These changes are substantial in that they remove the requirement for a sentence of imprisonment to be a sentence of last resort and open up the children’s court for repeat offenders.  They go further in that the prohibition against reporting children’s names before, during and after proceedings has been removed for alleged repeat offenders.

Changes to Qld Childrens Court

The changes to Qld Childrens Court include:

  1. Permit repeat offenders’ identifying information to be published;
  2. Open the Childrens Court for youth justice matters involving repeat offenders;
  3. Create a new offence where a child commits a further offence while on bail;
  4. Permit childhood findings of guilt for which no conviction was recorded to be admissible in court when sentencing a person for an adult offence;
  5. Provide for the automatic transfer from detention to adult corrective services facilities of 17 year olds who have six months or more left to serve in detention;
  6. Provide that, in sentencing any adult or child for an offence punishable by imprisonment, the court must not have regard to any principle, whether under statute or at law, that a sentence of imprisonment (in the case of an adult) or detention (in the case of a child) should only be imposed as a last resort;
  7. Allow children who have absconded from Sentenced Youth Boot Camps to be arrested and brought before a court for resentencing without first being given a warning; and
  8. Make a technical amendment to the Youth Justice Act 1992.

Naming repeat offenders

The amendments limit the application of the existing prohibition on publishing identifying information about a child the subject of proceedings to first-time offenders only.

This means repeat offenders who have been found guilty of another offence will be able to be identified and reported in the media, both during and after proceedings against them.  In the past children charged with criminal offences, have been able to escape the public scrutiny of their identities being published or reported on the media.  This has been said to reflect the important principle that children make mistakes, and should be given an opportunity to learn from them.  These new changes will remove that privilege and expose repeat offenders to media exposure.

The Qld Childrens Court can make an order at any time during a proceeding prohibiting publication of a repeat offender’s identifying information where it considers this to be in the interests of justice. This power may be exercised on the court’s own discretion or on application by a specified party. 

Opening the Childrens Court

The Qld Childrens Court will remain closed when hearing matters in relation to first- time offenders.  The legislation provides that Qld Childrens Court proceedings under the Youth Justice Act 1992 which involve repeat offenders are to be held in open court.  Childrens Court proceedings are currently only required to be held in open court where a judge is exercising jurisdiction to hear and determine a charge on indictment.  The court will have the discretion to hold some or all of a proceeding in relation to a repeat offender in closed court where it considers this to be in the interests of justice.

Imprisonment no longer a sentence of last resort

The amendments remove the principle that detention or prison is a sentence of last resort from both the Youth Justice Act 1992 and the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992. 

New offence of committing an offence while on bail

There is a new offence of committing a further offence while on bail. This new offence will be taken to have been committed where a finding of guilt is made against the young person in relation to that further offence.

The maximum penalty for the new breach of bail offence will be 20 penalty units or one year’s imprisonment.  This is half the maximum penalty under section 29 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 for breach of a condition of bail by an adult

Transfer to adult prisons for offenders when they turn 17 years.

The  Youth Justice Act 1992, currently provides for a court to order in certain circumstances that an offender be transferred to an adult correctional facility on turning 18 (or on turning 17 where they have previously been held in prison under a sentence or on remand). The ammendment provides that all offenders sentenced to a period of detention must be automatically transferred to an adult correctional facility on turning 17 if, at that time, they have at least 6 months left to serve in detention. If an offender is already 17 at the time of sentence to a period of detention of six months or more, that sentence will automatically be taken to be a sentence to a period of imprisonment to be served in a corrective services facility.

Retrospective effect

In a proceeding against an adult for an offence, any childhood finding of guilt for which no conviction was recorded will be admissible for the purposes of sentencing. This includes where the adult offence was committed or the proceeding against the adult started before commencement of the legislation.

Disclaimer

This website contains general information about legal matters.  The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such.  You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to legal advice from your lawyer or other professional legal services provider.  You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information on this website.

For specific legal advice you should immediately contact Gatenby Criminal Lawyers on (07) 5580 0120.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.