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JUVENILE CRIME

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					JUVENILE CRIME
   A NEW APPROACH




    POLICY BRIEF
                                           JUVENILE CRIME
                                          A NEW APPROACH

INTRODUCTION                                               criminal   justice   system,   whilst   ensuring   their
The time has come for a new approach to juvenile           behaviour was addressed.
crime in Western Australia.
                                                           LABOR’S JUSTICE FAILURE
The Coalition considers that the level of crime being      Before the last election, Labor promised to be
committed    by    juvenile   offenders   in     Western   ‘tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime.’
Australia is unacceptably high.
                                                           The reality has been very different. The promised
While the majority of young Western Australians are        state-wide, comprehensive framework to tackle
fine, law-abiding citizens of whom the community is        juvenile offending has not been delivered and the
rightly proud, there remains a small but significant       establishment of ‘Youth Offender Teams’ and
group of juvenile offenders who are responsible for        standardised assessment of offenders has not
a disproportionate level of criminal activity.             occurred. Despite community concern, the Labor
                                                           Government is not serious about addressing
The Coalition is also concerned that community             juvenile crime and there has been little attempt to
expectations about how young offenders are dealt           address systemic problems in the juvenile justice
with are not being met. In recent years, the manner        system.
in which the criminal justice system deals with
juveniles has fallen into disrepute and there is           Recent incidents involving juvenile offenders have
community concern that young offenders do not              endangered public safety and sparked fear and
receive a penalty commensurate with their crime.           anger in the community. In June 2004, two young
                                                           offenders already on bail for motor vehicle offences
Whilst the Coalition recognises the importance of a        were apprehended for stealing a motor vehicle after
juvenile justice system that focuses on early              a 28-minute high-speed chase through Perth
intervention and rehabilitation, the community also        suburbs. In the last few months there have been
expects juveniles committing serious and violent           reports of children as young as seven years
crimes to be held responsible for their actions.           committing acts of vandalism and as young as nine
                                                           years committing home invasions.
The previous Coalition Government introduced a
number of important reforms to the juvenile justice        Under Labor, the juvenile justice system continues
system through the Young Offenders Act in 1994.            to lack credibility. The Government’s supposed
This provided a firm but fair approach to juvenile         answer to juvenile crime - in the Northbridge curfew
offending through a range of sentencing options            - has been exposed as a superficial approach with
and established the successful juvenile justice            no additional resources, little follow-up action for
teams to divert minor offenders away from the              young people apprehended and no corresponding
programs    for   other   parts   of     the    State   or    §   Expand     community       involvement         in   the
metropolitan area.                                                juvenile justice process through new and
                                                                  improved prevention measures.
Labor has taken a permissive approach to cannabis
use, as evidenced by changes to the law to allow              A NEW JUVENILE JUSTICE COURT
for personal use and cultivation of cannabis.                 Since the establishment of the Children’s Court in
Despite increasing evidence that cannabis is                  1988, there has been a continuous stream of
harmful to mental and physical health, Labor is               criticism about the perceived leniency of sentences
sending young people the wrong message about                  handed down to juveniles, which have not reflected
drugs.                                                        the crimes they have committed. Part of this may be
                                                              due to the fact that the Court deals with both
THE COALITION APPROACH                                        juvenile crime as well as child welfare and
The Coalition believes that an effective juvenile             protection. The Coalition believes that these should
criminal justice system is one that ensures juvenile          be separate matters.
offenders are held accountable before the law,
particularly for serious and violent crimes, in order         Inconsistent discipline is often the reason why
to provide the community with proper protection.              juveniles offend in the first place, and they need
                                                              firm boundaries and a consistent approach from the
Equally,   such    a   system     must      provide     the   justice system. The administration of the criminal
appropriate support services to encourage juvenile            justice system must be seen by the community,
offenders to develop into responsible adult citizens.         victims of crime and offenders alike to be fair,
                                                              consistent    and    encourage      people     to       take
A Coalition Government will deliver a Six Part                responsibility for their actions. The Children’s Court
Strategy to tackle juvenile crime in Western                  as it deals with juvenile offenders has not been able
Australia. A Coalition Government will:                       to provide the community with the confidence that
§   Create a new Juvenile Justice Court to deal               these principles of justice are being fulfilled.
    exclusively with young offenders;
§   Legislate to extend the range of trial and                The Coalition will remove the juvenile criminal
    sentencing     options   available         for   “ near   justice jurisdiction from the Children’s Court
    adults” ;                                                 and transfer it to a new Juvenile Justice Court
§   Close loopholes in the “ three strikes”                   with specialist magistrates.
    legislation for burglary;
§   Take    a     tough   stance       on      anti-social    Currently the Children’s Court has the jurisdiction to
    behaviour;                                                deal with persons between the ages of 10 and 18
§   Provide for the responsibility of parents and             years who are accused of committing a crime.
    guardians to be reflected by our law; and                 Jurisdiction for such crimes would be transferred to
                                                              the new Juvenile Justice Court. This will bring
                                                              juvenile justice within the mainstream criminal
justice court system whilst still retaining the special   Around 71 per cent of all offenders dealt with in the
features to deal with young offenders.                    juvenile criminal system are 16 and 17 year olds. A
                                                          “near adult” should not be able to escape the
In Perth, this Court would be located on its own          consequences of their actions simply because of
floor within the Magistrates’ Court upon completion       their age. To a victim of crime it makes no
of the new Magistrates’ Court Complex, currently          difference whether an offender is 16 or 18 years of
the Central Law Courts complex. It will have access       age – the consequences of crime are exactly the
to the full services of the adult courts within that      same regardless of the age of the offender.
complex.
                                                          The Coalition believes that the juvenile justice
As part of this proposal the Chief Stipendiary            system should be reformed so there is scope for
Magistrate would be the head of the Court, rather         “near adults” being offenders aged between 16 and
                                                                       ,
than the current approach of seconding a District         18 years of age at the time of committing an
Court Judge to the position. This would provide           offence, to be tried as adults.
permanency of tenure and allow for a more
consistent   approach     in   dealing   with    young    Currently the Children’s Court has almost exclusive
offenders.                                                jurisdiction to deal with criminal offences by
                                                          juveniles. There are some exceptions. For example,
The present Children’s Court will be renamed the          if a young offender is charged with an indictable
Children’s Protection Court and continue to deal          offence, they may choose to be tried by the District
with persons aged up to 18 years in relation to non-      Court or Supreme Court. The Coalition proposes to
criminal matters, such as care and protection             extend this choice to the prosecutor of the case and
applications. The Court will also be freed up to deal     the Court.
with the new jurisdiction conferred by the Children
and Community Services Act and administer                 A Coalition Government will provide for “ near
intensive programs for young children at risk.            adults” , in appropriate cases, to be transferred
                                                          from the Children’s Court into an adult court.
“ NEAR ADULT” JUVENILE OFFENDERS
By the age of 16 years, a young person is                 While the presumption that a person under 18 years
effectively treated by the community as a young           is to be dealt with as a child will remain, allowing for
adult and is judged to be mature enough to have           the transfer of “near adults” to an adult court will
many of the same rights as an adult. For example,         ensure that serious and repeat offenders are dealt
they are no longer required to attend school, can         with in the most appropriate setting. The change
apply for a learner’s permit to drive a motor vehicle,    would be designed to apply, for instance, to a 17-
own a business, have sexual relations, gain               year-old repeat offender charged with serious
employment and be married.                                offences such as aggravated armed robbery or
                                                          assault.
Following an application by the Prosecution, the             Currently, the Criminal Code distinguishes between
Court would be able to transfer a “near adult” after
                                              ,              burglaries committed in people’s homes and those
considering factors such as the seriousness of the           committed elsewhere. The Criminal Code currently
offence, other charges being faced by the offender,          provides for the imposition of a mandatory 12-
the maturity of the offender and the protection of the       month prison sentence upon an offender’s third
community.                                                   conviction for home burglary. In the case of young
                                                             offenders, a mandatory sentence of 12 months in a
This option will allow a trial process whereby the           juvenile   detention    centre   is     imposed.      These
crime of the offender is the focus – not the age. It         penalties reflect the seriousness with which the
will also allow for the processes of an adult court to       community considers the violation of the home and
apply, for example a jury trial.                             the Coalition would not alter such provisions.


As part of this new approach, the Coalition will             There are also community concerns, however, that
consider the introduction of blended sentences,              the sentencing for commercial and other burglaries
that is, a sentence with both juvenile and adult             does not reflect the seriousness of these crimes.
elements.                                                    The whole community bears the cost of these
                                                             burglaries, through loss of services and rising
The adult sanction would be suspended pending                insurance premiums passed on in the price of
the successful completion of the juvenile portion of         goods and services.
the sentence. The availability of blended sentences
would allow the Court to focus on the rehabilitation         The interpretation of the Young Offenders Act has
of a young offender, whilst ensuring that there are          also opened some loopholes in the application of
serious consequences should they fail to respond to          mandatory sentencing. Some juveniles have not
rehabilitative efforts.                                      been    sentenced      to   detention    on   their    third
                                                             conviction for burglary, due to some convictions not
CLOSING THE LOOPHOLES                                        being regarded as ‘strikes’ under the three strikes
Western     Australia     is   the   burglary capital   of   rule.
Australia. As at May 2004, the Western Australian
home burglary rate was 48.5 per cent higher than             The Coalition would close the loopholes and
the national average, 32 per cent higher than New            extend the mandatory sentencing provisions as
South Wales and 109 per cent higher than Victoria.           they relate to burglary to cover commercial
This is not solely attributable to juvenile offenders        properties and community organizations, such
and, as such, the focus of the Coalition’s policy will       as clubs, schools and charities.
target repeat offenders, no matter what their age.
Specific concerns persist, however, in relation to           This change will enable the Court to impose a
the sentencing for juvenile burglary offenders and           mandatory 12-month sentence of imprisonment or
this is an issue that must be dealt with.                    detention upon an offender’s third conviction for an
                                                             offence committed in respect of any place.
TACKLING ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR                            These could include programs to:
Riots in Scarborough, Trigg and Bassendean have           §   Improve natural surveillance and environmental
focussed    community      attention   on   anti-social       deterrents to anti-social behaviour in a particular
behaviour and how effectively – or ineffectively - the        area;
law prevents and deals with gatherings that               §   Support local community-based patrols such as
descend into violence and vandalism. Incidents                the excellent Nyoongar Patrol operating in the
where community safety is put at risk, residential            Perth CBD and Northbridge;
areas are disturbed, police are called to face a          §   Trial temporary curfews in conjunction with
barrage of bottles and bricks, and property is                other measures in particular trouble spots; and
damaged, cannot be tolerated. Again, anti-social          §   Tackle drug and alcohol abuse in communities.
behaviour is not solely a problem related to age, or
any one group, and the Coalition’s policy will apply      Further details on initiatives to tackle anti-social
to all offenders.                                         behaviour can be found in the policy Safer Towns
                                                          and Cities: Curbing Anti-Social Behaviour.
A key element of addressing anti-social behaviour
among juveniles is to provide stronger powers for         ENCOURAGING ADULT RESPONSIBILITY
the courts. New statutory measures will enable            The law should reflect the responsibility of parents
courts to reduce the possibility of anti-social           and guardians to ensure that children have the
behaviour by limiting the activities of known juvenile    proper supervision and guidance in their early
offenders in certain situations.                          years.


A Coalition Government will introduce a range             Juvenile crime costs the community and victims of
of new powers to allow courts to curb anti-               crime millions of dollars every year as a result of
social behaviour.                                         arson,      vandalism,   burglary   to   homes    and
                                                          businesses and court costs. Where parents’ or
There are a number of country towns and                   guardians’ negligence has been a direct factor in
metropolitan suburbs with particularly acute and          the commission of a crime by a juvenile offender,
continuing anti-social behaviour problems.                options should be available to the Court to reflect
                                                          that responsibility.
The Coalition will undertake a campaign, in
partnership with Local Government, of targeted            The Coalition will improve the law to reflect the
programs for local areas around the State prone           responsibility of parents and guardians to
to anti-social behaviour.                                 supervise children in their care and to provide a
                                                          full range of alternatives to the Court.
The Coalition will work with local communities to
identify specific problems at a local level and design    There are clearly issues that need to be addressed
appropriate measures to combat the problem.               to ensure such a policy is applied sensitively and
                                                          does not create greater difficulties for socially and
financially    disadvantaged     families.   There   is,   SAFER WA, established by the former Coalition
nonetheless, a compelling case to be made for              Government, provided many outstanding programs
parents to provide at least partial compensation for       aimed at reducing the risk of juvenile offending.
their child’s crime if they are found to be negligent      These community based services included truancy
and have the capacity to pay.                              programs, diversion projects and juvenile mentoring
                                                           schemes.
PREVENTION AND REHABILITATION – A
COMMUNITY CONCERN                                          A Coalition Government will reinstate funding
The Coalition recognises that the key to reducing          for prevention and early intervention programs
the juvenile crime rate in Western Australia is            cancelled as a result of Labor’s decision to axe
addressing factors that are major contributors to the      the SAFER WA scheme.
commission of crimes by young offenders. These
include drug abuse, boredom, family dysfunction            The Coalition supports a whole-of-government
and poverty.                                               approach to justice issues and programs driven at a
                                                           community level. The coordination of justice issues
With regard to drugs, early intervention is critical.      across Government is addressed in the Coalition
The Coalition has argued that first time offenders         policy – A Western Australian Justice Commission.
caught with small amounts of cannabis should be
required to attend an education program in addition        CONCLUSION
to any other penalty they receive. This is currently       Young people who commit crimes must understand
an option for adult offenders who do not wish to pay       that their actions have consequences.          The
a fine, but not for juveniles.                             changes proposed by the Coalition will provide the
                                                           Court with greater powers when dealing with “near
The age that young people are committing crimes is         adults” and protect the community from serious,
decreasing. Where an offender may be too young             habitual offenders.
to face criminal responsibility, their offending
behaviour must be addressed. The Coalition                 The Coalition is committed to ensuring that whilst
recognises the need for intensive early intervention       the rehabilitation of young offenders remains a
and follow-up programs to stop offending behaviour         priority, community protection, punishment and
by children under 10 years.                                deterrence are seen as equally important.


Prevention and early intervention programs must be         This policy sends a clear message to the
co-ordinated     across    agencies,    including    the   community and young offenders that crime will not
departments of Community Development, Justice,             be tolerated by a Coalition Government.
Health and Education, as well as the Western
Australian Police Service.                                                                     February 2005

				
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