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REVIEW OF THE YOUTH JUSTICE ACT 1997
OFFICE OF THE DEPUTY SECRETARY – HUMAN SERVICES REVIEW OF THE YOUTH JUSTICE ACT 1997 Feedback from Young People OCTOBER 2009 THANK YOU I would like to thank all the young people who took the time to participate in our review. I enjoyed meeting some of you when I was at the DENIM conference in Port Sorrel. Your thoughts, ideas and comments help us to work out which areas of our justice system work for young people and where we should focus improvements. Your comments have been summarised for a Steering Committee. That Steering Committee will consider your feedback, comments from the public, and input from people such as the Police, Magistrates and Youth Justice Workers. They will then make suggestions to me on how the Youth Justice Act 1997 can be altered to support rehabilitation of young people. The full reports can be accessed on the Department’s website at www.dhhs.tas.gov.au A SPECIAL THANK YOU I’d like to thank the staff from Pulse Youth Health Centre and the following young people who helped us with this report. • AJ • Alicia • Jacinta • Jack and • Dale Minister Lin Thorp Minister for Human Services October 2009 1 CONTENTS What Review?........................................................................................ 3 What will we do with your feedback? ................................................. 4 Who answered the questions?............................................................. 5 What a Magistrate should consider when sentencing a young person? ....................................................... 6 Bail .......................................................................................................... 9 Diversion from Court ........................................................................... 11 Community Service Orders ................................................................ 13 Parole or Supervised Release?............................................................. 15 Offenders over 18 years of age............................................................ 18 Driving Disqualification ........................................................................ 19 2 What Review? Review of the Youth Justice Act 1997 The Youth Justice Act is the Act that guides how young people are dealt with by Police, Magistrates and Youth Justice Workers In April 2009 we started a consultation process asking the public to provide us with feedback on what areas of the Act they thought worked well and which areas should be improved. We also wanted to know your thoughts about the way the Act works. So we asked you some questions on a number of areas that directly affect what happens to you if you commit an offence. As a result you have provided us with your thoughts on: - • The things a Magistrate should take into account in sentencing; • Bail and remand at Ashley Youth Detention Centre; • Diversion from the Court; • Community Service Orders; • Release from Ashley (Parole or Supervised Release); • Sentencing adults who committed a crime as a young person; and • Automatic Driving Disqualifications for stealing motor vehicles. What we promised you We promised to let you know what the views of all young people were. This paper provides a summary of the feedback from the 160 young people who took the time to gives us their thoughts. We thank you for taking the time to help us and to let us know what you think. 3 What will we do with your feedback? We have developed four papers from the public consultation. • This paper • Another paper that provides full details of the consultation with young people • Two papers that give detail about feedback we received from the community and from groups who work with young people You can find these papers at www.dhhs.tas.gov.au The Project Steering Committee All of this information will be given to a Steering Committee that is guiding the review process. People on that Steering Committee include: - • A Police Officer; • A Magistrate; • The Commissioner for Children; • A person from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Inc.; and • Other people who have experience in the issues young people face when they commit an offence. How will any changes to the Act be made? The information in the papers will help us to think about changes that could be made to the Act. The Minister for Human Services Lin Thorp will then consider the information from the public and from the steering committee. The Minister then makes recommendations to Cabinet and Cabinet will make the final decision on which recommendations will be presented to Parliament. After Cabinet decides this, a Bill has to be drafted and this goes to Parliament for approval. This process takes a long time so changes are not expected until 2010. 4 Who answered the questions? 160 young people helped us with our consultation Most of We got more responses you were from guys than girls but aged a large number didn’t between tell us your gender 14 to 16 but some were younger and some We got responses from all over older Tasmania, but most were from the South 37 of you told us the things You all come from different you thought Magistrates backgrounds should give priority to when they sentence young people. Some of you have offended before and some of you haven’t 123 of you helped with the other parts of the Some of you knew what it was consultation like to be in “Ashley’s” and at least four of you were sleeping rough when you helped us out Most of you lived in the suburbs of • Glenorchy, Mornington, Rokeby • Bellerive, Brighton and • Dorset 5 What a Magistrate should consider when sentencing a young person What we asked you Which of these things are most important for a Magistrate to consider in sentencing a young person? • Whether a young person will stop offending in the future. • The seriousness of the offence that was committed. • What is happening in a young person’s life. • Whether a young person has shown they are sorry for the crime. • The effect of the crime on the victim. What you told us You thought a Magistrate should give most consideration to the effect of the crime on the victim. You thought the least important factor was whether the young person had shown he or she was sorry for their crime. Some of you thought that all the factors were equally Some of you thought the effect of a victim of crime was important “Because really the seriousness of the crime is decided by the damage done to the victim. Murder is therefore more serious than blowing up a letter box because the damage to the victim was greater.” Young person - Anglicare 6 Some of you thought the effect of a victim of crime was not so important “The victim may not be affected e.g. just taking a bag from them versus beating them up and taking the bag – its two very different things.” Young Person – Clarence Plains Youth Centre Some of you thought about the type and circumstances of the offence “If the crime was a simple theft it’s not as serious as murder – so it should be a different outcome.” Young Person – Pulse Youth Heath Centre “Things may happen that wasn’t intended. The circumstances can change how the young person is guilty. And how fair the outcome may be.” Young Person – Anglicare Some of you thought the personal circumstances of the young person who commits the offence were important “Because what happens in the person is mostly what drives them to commit crime.” Young Person – the Zone Some of you thought the personal circumstances of the young person who commits the offence were not so important “I don’t think that it’s unimportant. I just think of the 5 it is the LEAST important. It’s what you do about your situation that counts.” 7 Young Person – Anglicare What you thought about taking into account prospects for rehabilitation “…Judges…should focus on the crime and TRY TO GET HELP FOR THE YOUNG PERSON.” Young Person – Anglicare How important you thought it was that a young person had shown they were sorry for their crime “They only say it because they have been caught.” Young Person – Youth on Patterson “They can be sorry but it doesn’t change things.” Young Person – Colony 47 “The crime is already done so now the most important thing is making sure the offender knew the seriousness and is very sorry for the trouble thy have caused.” Young Person – The Zone 8 Young People on Bail or on Remand in Ashley Youth Detention Centre When a young person is charged with a crime and goes to Court it may be some time before the Magistrate decides whether the young person committed the offence. Until this happens, the Magistrate must either release the young person on bail or remand them in Ashley Youth Detention Centre. If a young person is released on bail the Magistrate will usually attach conditions. These conditions are to ensure the young person turns up when their charge is discussed in Court and to make sure the public is safe. One way to keep the public safe is to attach conditions so that no other offences are committed. What we asked you What bail conditions could be used so a young person does not offend while on bail? What you told us You suggested young people need something meaningful to do when on bail. Some young people thought curfew for after school hours could be a bail condition. Other young people who were in Ashley felt that curfew conditions and conditions that stop young people from mixing with their friends were very hard to comply with and not related to the offence. For instance young people in Ashley could not see the link between being given a night time curfew when a shop lifting offence occurred during the day. Some young people thought that sometimes the enforcement of bail conditions can be unfair, for instance visits to the home in early hours of the morning to ensure they were there. Some bail conditions suggested were:- • Compulsory attendance at school or an education program; • Three strike warning system to encourage good behaviour on bail, after three strikes a young person would automatically be sent to AYDC to wait court; • A mentoring program with someone who has been through the ‘system’; • Fines; • Having property removed for bad behaviour on bail; • Undertake community service; and • Report to Police regularly. 9 What we asked you Are there any alternatives to being placed on remand in Ashley’s? What you told us Some of you said going to Ashley on remand is not the best idea. You suggested there should be special accommodation in the South with youth workers where you can: - • Attend school or do some other programs; • Have counselling and support; and • Undertake some work in the community. Some other suggestions were: - • To be bailed to someone who is trusted – perhaps a family member; • To be placed on house arrest; • Wearing electronic anklets; and • Being locked up in Police cells. Some young people in Ashley thought it was better to be placed there as it gave them some structure and they would not end up with more charges for things that might happen if they were on bail. “Don’t put young people in Risdon prison; they learn how to commit crimes in there. Also if on remand at Ashley – mixing with kids who have offended will not be good for them. They will look up to those people in there and want to be just like them.” Young Person – Clarence Plains Youth Centre “Going all the way to Ashley is tiring – by the time a young person gets before the judge they are likely to tell them to f..k off regardless as to whether they have done anything or not.” Young Person – Clarence Plains Youth Centre 10 Diversion from Court When a young person admits committing a crime they do not always go to court. Most times the Police will talk to the young person about the charge and encourage them to think about what they have done – this is called an informal caution. For crimes that are more serious, or if the young person continues to commit offences, he or she is still given other chances to change their behaviour. Sometimes the Police will give them a ‘formal caution’ – this involves working with the young person to come up with ideas to make up for what they have done. Sometimes this will involve meeting the victim of the crime but not always. Some other times the Police might arrange for a young person to attend a ‘community conference’. This involves getting a lot of people together at a meeting. This usually includes the victim, the Police, a parent or support person for the young person, someone who understands the young person’s culture and a youth worker. At this meeting the young person is helped to come up with a plan to help repair the damage done by the crime. This might involve an apology to the victim, some work in the community, agreeing to go to school or to undertake some other program. What we asked you Do you think there is any difference between a formal caution and a community conference? What you told us You thought the two main differences are: - • Whether a victim is always present; and • The number of hours to finish the things the young person has agreed to do to make up for the crime. Young people in Ashley thought the main difference was whether the victim was present:- • Some young people thought meeting the victim was good as it made them think about what they had done and how that had harmed the victim; • Others did not want to meet the victim and could not see the point in this. They could not understand why the victim would want to meet the person who had hurt them – it would not fix their broken arm, or return their stolen television. 11 What we asked you What type of things could a young person agree to do which would help make up for the crime? What you told us You suggested a young person could: - • Apologise to the victim in person and explain why they committed the crime; • Attend counselling; • Pay for the victim’s doctors bills; • Undertake community work – such as cleaning up the damage caused; and • Attend school. You also suggested parents should be more involved. • Some young people said their parents tease them about what they have agreed to do and that makes it hard for them to take it seriously. • Others said they commit the crime so their parents will take notice of them, and • Others needed help from their parents so as they could finish what they’d agreed to do. Young people in Ashley thought that if the victim was elderly they could sit with them and spend time with them or help them do some things that it’s too hard for them to do because they are old. “It is fair to make young people do undertakings depending on the reason they are asked to do them – punishment needs to fit the crime.” Young Person – Youth on Patterson 12 Community Service Orders A Community Service Order is a court order made by a Magistrate or Judge. Usually a young person will have committed a number of crimes and had some diversion and even a probation order before he or she is sentenced to community service. When the young person does get a community service order the Magistrate tells the young person how many hours of community work he or she has to do. Sometimes when the young person has school or sport it may be difficult for the youth justice worker to find enough activities that the young person can do so that they complete their hours. What we asked you What sort of things could a young person do to complete the number of hours of community service that he or she has to do? What young people in Ashley thought The young people in Ashley thought that community service could either be used as:- • Punishment; or • To help the young person develop skills and qualifications which might help them get employment. They thought that community service could achieve both these things They suggested a young person on a community service order should spend some time doing things like cleaning public areas or delivering wheels on meals. Young people suggested someone should talk to them about what activities they could do for skill building. Ashley residents told us some things that make it difficult for them to complete community service, such as: - • Lack of permanent accommodation – this makes any routine program or appointments difficult as they never know where they will be; • Lack of available and cheap transport; and • Having to do community service with other young people who they don’t get on with. Some young people said they had difficulty sticking to routine and suggested youth justice workers could provide them with reminders so that they knew what they had to do. 13 What some other young people thought Most young people thought community service hours could be used to help them with the things that are going on in their life. You suggested community service hours could be used to: - • Attend counselling; • Have someone support s a young person attend school • Solve drug and alcohol problems ; • Attend Anger Management; • Deal with accommodation issues • Help with literacy and numeracy support; • Assist with job readiness experience; • Attend programs in preparation for parenthood; • Attend alternative education programs such as: - o U Turn o Chance on Main o Youth Arc A few of you suggested young people should be required to wear a special uniform when they were doing community service work or clean the mall in front of their friends. Someone also suggested a young person should be made to go to Risdon prison as part of their community service so as he or she can see what their future looks like if they keep on .offending. “Have a plan that they can stick to – this plan would cover everything from school, personal development programs and community service in the community.” Young Person – Glenorchy Pulse Youth Health Centre 14 Supervised Release or Parole? When a young person has committed a serious crime the Court might order that they serve some time in Ashley Youth Detention Centre. The Magistrate will tell them how long they will need to stay there. Young people Supervised leave after that time on ‘Supervised Release Release” but in some other States Parole there is a Parole system. In some other States there is a system of When a young person serves half of their time in parole. This means that when the Magistrate Ashley they are automatically released. gives a young person a detention order, he/she will tell them how long they need to The rest of the time they spend in the community stay in Ashley before they can ask to be under the supervision of a youth justice worker. released. Sometimes this time can be more than half of their order. This is called a supervised release order. When they have served that time, the young So if the Magistrate told the young person that person can apply to a Parole Board to be their detention order was for 2 years, they released. The young person will be asked to spend 1 year in Ashley and 1 year in the tell the Board how they have behaved when community under the supervision of a youth they are in Ashley and what they will do in justice worker. the community to try to stop offending. If the Board thinks this is OK the young person then spends the remainder of the time in the community under the supervision of a youth justice worker. 15 What we asked you Is it better for a young person to be released from Ashley on parole of supervised release? Some of you thought parole was a good idea You suggested a young person would need to ‘prove’ to the Board that they understood how serious their crime was and that they wanted to do something to change. Some others thought young people might just say to the Board that they had changed when they hadn’t really. Some of you provided us with suggestions on what type of people should be on a Parole Board:- • A Psychiatrist; • Workers from Ashley; • Other young people with youth justice experience; and • Lawyers. Others thought no-one who had been involved with them in the justice system should be on the Board. Some people thought the Board should consider everything about a young person and not just how he or she had behaved in Ashley. Some thought parole might make people really think about the young person needs and their situation and that might not happen with supervised release. Others thought that supervised release might not encourage a young person to change as they knew they would get out anyway. Some young people in Ashley thought parole may have some benefit You suggested that under the current system some young people might be released before they are ready and then they reoffend within days of leaving Ashley. This might be avoided if a Board had to think about whether they were ready to be released. Young people also thought that they should be able to reapply for release if the Board didn’t think they were ready to leave. You suggested the Board should recognise good behaviour by early release. 16 Others thought parole was not a good idea Some of you thought a system of supervised release was better for young people because if young people don’t know when they are going before the Board this may be hard for them. Some young people in Ashley thought it was better to know when they would be released. You also suggested how we could make supervised release better. You thought: - • There could be conditions that young people attend school and counselling; • There could be curfews put in place; and • There could be a three warning system and if they misbehaved a third time they would have to go back to Ashley. Some Aboriginal Young People preferred supervised release so as they knew how long they would spend in detention. 17 Offenders over 18 years of age Sometimes a person commits a crime when they are young but do not get sentenced by the court for some time later. This may be because there is new evidence about the crime. In some cases people may not be sentenced until they are an adult. However the law states that they must be sentenced under the Youth Justice Act. What we asked you If a young person who committed a crime is now an adult should they be sentenced under the Youth Justice Act? What you told us Some young people thought that it was unfair to be charged as an adult for a crime you committed when you were younger. But you also said this may depend on how serious the crime was. You also thought that it was important a Magistrate looked at the background of the person since that time. You thought if the person had not committed another offence since that time he should not be charged. However some of you thought that the person’s age wasn’t important and if they committed the crime as a young person they should be sentenced as a young person. Those of you, who thought that said that a person should not be dealt with more harshly then they would have been if sentenced when they were younger. 18 Driving Disqualification for Motor Vehicle Stealing When a young person is found guilty of stealing a motor vehicle, a Magistrate must disqualify them from driving for 12 months. If they are not old enough to have a licence the disqualification doesn’t start until they are eligible to get a licence. What we asked you Should a young person be allowed to apply to the Court to have their disqualification reconsidered and if so under what circumstances? What you told us Some of you thought that the licence disqualification should not be automatic. The reasons were: - • The penalty is a too long after the crime has been committed; and • It was unfair if the young person had not offended again since that time. However, all of you thought that if it was automatic a young person should either: - • Be able to apply to the Court to have that reconsidered;’ or • Be able to apply to the Court for a restricted licence. You thought that a restricted licence would: - • Let a young person get a job; • Help them to get to and from education – particularly if they lived in a rural area; and • Help the young person’s family if he or she was responsible for driving others to places. You thought the restricted licence could only be used to get to and from work and that the Magistrate could order that passengers aren’t allowed in the car. 19 Things you thought the Court should consider if a young person could apply for a restricted licence or to cancel the disqualification • Whether the young person had committed any more offences. • Whether they had regularly attended school. • Demonstration of respect for cars. • The young person should either tell the Magistrate or write to them and tell them what they had done to change their behaviour. • Reports could be submitted by teachers, community members or employers. You also suggested that young people should be able to attend a driving school as a way to learn to drive safely and so it was legal. One of you suggested that the young person should be made apply to a panel of young people and not the Court. “I lost my licence when I was 18 and never got it back. I’m now 28. These young ones don’t know what it’s like to never have a licence – to drive legally is a blessing. I can’t take my kids to Maccas at tea time because I would have to put them on a bus to get there from Clarendon Vale. Because I don’t have a licence, I can’t get work. I got a job once but had to rely on my missus to drive me there. We ended up fighting a lot because she didn’t want to keep taking me there and picking me up. She just got sick of it and we split up. I don’t have a job and I don’t get to see my kids very often. I just laugh when I hear these young ones talk about committing crimes. I remember what it was like – all I wanted to do when I got out of prison each time was to root chicks and do drugs – the two things you can’t do inside. Both of those things kept me going back into prison. I can see it now – but I couldn’t’ then. ” 28 year old man – Clarence Plains Youth Centre 20
"REVIEW OF THE YOUTH JUSTICE ACT 1997"