Misspent Youth - Opportunities for Juvenile Justice

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Transcript Misspent Youth - Opportunities for Juvenile Justice

Misspent Youth - Opportunities for Juvenile Justice

Address by The Hon Wayne Martin Chief Justice of Western Australia JOHN CURTIN INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC POLICY PUBLIC POLICY FORUM 26 AUGUST 2010

The vast majority of kids are good

According to the Auditor General in the 5 years to 30 June 2007: • Just over 1,000 young people had more than 10 formal contacts with police.

• This was out of a total population of 225,000 young people (10-17 years) in WA (i.e. 0.5%).

• 80% of young people had no formal contact whatever with police.

• Of those who do have contact the significant majority (80%) had 1 or 2 formal contacts with police .

The vast majority of Aboriginal kids are good • Over those five years, only about 800 of a total population of 11,000 Aboriginal young people in WA (7%) had more than 10 formal contacts with police.

Young people in detention

In the year to 30 June 2008: • On average there were 164 young people in custody in WA.

• This was the second highest rate of detention in Australia.

• However there were 235,000 young people between 10 and 17 in WA in that year.

• Less than 1,000 young people were in custody over the year.

Persistent young offenders

• Over 5 years about 1,000 young people in WA had more than 10 formal contacts with police.

• Of those, only 120 young people had 25 or more contacts with police.

Children as victims

• In most jurisdictions about 20% of alleged juvenile offenders' contact with police stemmed from alleged offences against the person. • However, a majority of juvenile victims were the victims of such offences.

• While our children do commit offences against the person, they are more likely to be the victims of offences against the person committed by adults.

Young offenders in WA


Of those cautioned, 64% were male, of those referred to a juvenile justice team, 74% were male, and of those arrested, about 80% were male. •


Amongst juveniles arrested in WA, 25% were aged between 10 and 14, and the remaining 75% were aged between 15 and 17. •


About 40% of the arrest and summons of juveniles took place in the South Eastern (Kalgoorlie), Central (Geraldton), Pilbara and Kimberley regions. Almost 20% of juveniles arrested and summonsed in WA were Aboriginal young people from these four regions.

Offence type

Of juveniles arrested in WA: • 41% were arrested in relation to offences against property; • 33% were arrested in relation to offences against the person; and • 26% were arrested in relation to "other" offences. NB. These figures relate to arrests and exclude police contacts with young people resulting in the issue of a summons.

Indigenous over-representation

• The Auditor General has estimated that about 75% of the persistent group of offenders who are responsible for most government effort within the juvenile justice system are Aboriginal, and a significant number of those are resident in regional Western Australia.

Aboriginal young offenders

• Aboriginal children comprised 29% of those cautioned by police, 33% of those referred to juvenile justice teams, and 50% of those arrested. • These percentages are to be compared to the fact that Aboriginal juveniles comprised only about 5% of the total population of juveniles during the relevant period.

Offences by Aboriginal young people

Aboriginal juveniles comprised: • 50% of young people arrested in relation to assault; • 58% of young people arrested in relation to sexual assault; • 59% of young people arrested in relation to robbery; • 66% of young people arrested for burglary; • 61% of young people arrested in relation to motor vehicle theft; • 39% of young people arrested in relation to receiving/handling proceeds of crime; • 19% of young people arrested in relation to fraud; • 32% of young people arrested in relation to property damage; and • 45% of young people arrested in relation to disorderly conduct.

Outcomes for young Aboriginal offenders

• For males, 82% of Aboriginal juveniles were found guilty (after trial or on a plea), compared to 76% of non-Aboriginal males.

• For females, the relevant proportions were 79% for Aboriginal, and 66% for non-Aboriginal females.

• 22% of the Aboriginal juveniles dealt with were given custodial penalties, as compared to 9% of non-Aboriginal juveniles.

• Non-Aboriginal juveniles were more likely to receive a fine (35%) than Aboriginal juveniles (15%).

• Within the offence of assault, 26% of Aboriginal juveniles sentenced received a custodial penalty, compared to 17% of non-Aboriginal juveniles.

• For the offence of burglary, 31% of Aboriginal juveniles received a custodial penalty, compared to 18% of non-Aboriginal juveniles.

Criminal justice supervision – Aboriginal young people

• During 2007-08, about 65% of the 2,000 young people under criminal justice supervision in WA were Aboriginal. • Again, this was out of a juvenile population of around 235,000 (0.85%).

• The rate of supervision of Aboriginal young people in WA was almost double the national average.

Juvenile custody – Aboriginal young people

• This month Aboriginal children represent about 65% of those in custody on remand (52 out of 80, made up by 43 males and 9 females), and about 68% of the sentenced population (56 out of 82, made up by 55 males and 1 female).

• The disproportionate representation of Aboriginal juveniles within the juvenile justice system, is greater than the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal people within the adult criminal justice system.

Juvenile detention

• WA has the second highest rate of juvenile detention per head of juvenile population in Australia.

• Although the NT has a higher rate of juvenile detention per head of population generally, its rate of detention per head of Aboriginal juvenile population is significantly lower (less than half) that of WA .

Detention – longer term trends

• The rate of juvenile detention per head of population has, generally speaking, declined in WA over the last 30 years, with the rate in 2007 being about 30% lower than the rate in 1981.

• There are, however, peaks and troughs. For example, in August 2005, there were only 91 juveniles in custody, made up of 37 on remand and 54 sentenced, whereas in May 2010, the number peaked at 220, made up of 120 on remand and 100 sentenced.

Forward estimates

In May 2010, the Department of Corrective Services revised its estimates upwards for coming years: • For example, from 199 juveniles in custody to 256 for 2020.

• The revisions made by the Department in respect of those juveniles subject to community-based supervision have not been as significant; for example, from 921 to 1,087 for 2020.

Supervised bail • In August 2010, there were 65 young people on supervised bail in WA whereas in 2002 there were less than 10.

The effectiveness of detention

In 2004, the Australian Institute of Criminology released a report which addressed reoffending studies amongst juvenile offenders around the world. That report noted that: • in North America the recidivism rate for young people leaving custody had been reported to be as high as 96%; and • in another study, 88% of British males between 14 and 16 years reoffended within 2 years of release from custody.

Recidivism rates - WA

• For male juveniles, of those who exited custody over the 10 years ending 30 June 2008, 75.45% had returned to custody before early May 2009.

• For male Aboriginal juveniles, the figure was almost 80%.

• For female Aboriginal juveniles, the figure was a little lower, at 64%.

• No data was provided for female juveniles generally. • Taking a shorter term view of return to custody, namely, return to custody within 2 years of release, the quarterly figures produced during 2009 varied between 46% and 61%. • So, about half of those released from juvenile detention returned to custody within 2 years, and if a longer term view is taken, the percentage returning to custody is significantly higher, being around three-quarters.

Effective intervention

• Studies in the US have shown that even for the most serious juvenile offenders, effective intervention is possible with well-devised and targeted programs.

• These can significantly reduce recidivism both for offenders in the community (by up to 40%) and for those in custody (by up to 30-35%). • Whether those results could be achieved in WA, given the particular demographic and ethnic factors which bear upon juvenile offending in this State, is an open question.


• In WA it costs between $600 and $700 per day to keep a juvenile in custody.

• Community-based supervision is a fraction of this cost, but if done properly, is still expensive.

• The Auditor General estimated that the 250 children who had the most intersection with the criminal justice system would, between the ages of 10 and 17 years, cost the State of Western Australia, $100 million.

• That is an average of $400,000 per child.

• Between 2007/08 and 2010/11, the budget allocated to the Department of Corrective Services increased from $473 million to $771 million (an increase of 63%).