Victorian youth justice system heading in the wrong direction

03.02.17

The Change the Record (CTR) Coalition has today expressed serious concern about the deterioration of Victoria’s youth justice system and called for an urgent shift in approach.

CTR Co-Chair Shane Duffy said, “It has been less than a year since the nation was shocked by revelations of extreme mistreatment of young people in the Northern Territory’s Don Dale facility, and yet we are now witnessing a move towards a more punitive approach to youth justice in Victoria”.

This week there have been reports of an incident a which resulted in serious injuries to a 16 year old boy whilst detained at maximum security adult facility Barwon Prison. And over the past few months there have been numerous reports of use of force by detention staff, including the use of capsicum spray, tear gas and batons.

“The nation once looked to Victoria as one of the leaders in youth justice, with its system of dual orders and strong focus on rehabilitation and diversion options for children. However recent reports illustrate that the state is now heading in the opposite direction”.

“It is critical that all allegations of assault be immediately and independently investigated, and that the Andrews Government takes urgent steps to ensure the safety of all young people” said Mr Duffy.

The Change the Record Coalition’s Blueprint for Change calls on all levels of government to commit to working together to address the underlying factors that cause young people to come into contact with the justice system in the first place.

“History has shown us time and time again that punitive ‘tough on crime’ approaches to youth offending are ineffective, and that far more appropriate opportunities for support and positive reinforcement exist then putting children behind bars”.

“It’s time for all governments to lift their game and invest in evidence-based approaches, underpinned by a focus on the best interests of the child.”

CTR’s Blueprint for Change includes recommendations that:

  • All levels of government prioritise budgetary and other measures to progressively invest increased resources community-led early intervention, prevention and diversion measures, which prevent offending from occurring in the first place;
  • Whist observing the principle that detention must only be used as a measure of last resort, all governments must ensure that any person up to and including the age of 17, is detained in appropriate facilities. Youth detention facilities should be built for purpose and provide the supports that vulnerable children need in an appropriate and therapeutic environment; and
  • The age of criminal responsibility is increased to age 12 in all States and Territories (in line with recommendations from the Committee on the Rights of the Children, and ensure the presumption of legal incapacity continues to apply to 12, 13 and 14-year-olds.

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Media Contact:

Shannon Longhurst for Shane Duffy – ph: 0409 711 061 / e: shannon@changetherecord.org.au