Juvenile Justice In Australiaa Essay, Research Paper
The Juvenile Justice Act 1992 (QLD) defines a juvenile as a young person under the age of 17 years. It maintains that a child under the age of 10 years is not considered criminally responsible, and is incapable of forming ‘criminal intent’. Similarly, a child under the age of 14 years is not considered criminally responsible, unless it is proven that the child understood the offence was morally wrong. The extent of Police Powers over juveniles, the efficiency of the juvenile justice system, and possible solutions to the problems arising from these systems, need to be addressed in order to reduce the high rate of youth crime.
Queensland police have insufficient powers over juveniles, due to the introduction of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act, which commenced on 6th April 1998. Police have the authority to stop a juvenile, search, question and detain them for questioning without arrest if the officer reasonably believes that juvenile was or will be involved in criminal activity. Cautions can be issued to juveniles as an informal means of addressing a matter, as arrests are only encouraged in exceptional cases. Police can question, fingerprint, photograph and take bodily samples from a juvenile, on the condition that a parent or guardian is present. All other police procedures involving juveniles are uniform to those of adults.
The current juvenile justice system is ineffective in dealing with young offenders. For a simple offence such as stealing, the most a child can expect as a means of punishment is a caution, which is not revealed in a further court action concerning the child, or a good behaviour order. It is thought that punishments such as these do little in preventing juveniles from reoffending. The Queensland Police Service Statistical Review for 1996-7 revels that 25% of all offences, 66% of break and enters, 61% of motor vehicle thefts, 44% of robberies and 41% of stealing offences were committed by males between the age of 15 and 19. It also reveals that 17% of all reported property offences were committed by 10 to 14 year olds, yet these children are not considered criminally responsible, cannot be found guilty of an offence and therefore cannot be dealt appropriate punishments by the courts. The high rate of youth crime is also closely linked with negligence, lack of parental guidance and overcrowding, especially in areas with a high population of Aboriginal people.
In order to reduce and prevent youth crime, many strategies need to be considered. Education programs on parenting skills, more community conferences between offenders and victims, showing offenders the extent of their actions, naming young criminals in media reports, and the introduction of new strategies in areas experiencing high rates of crime are some suggestions which need to be taken into consideration by law making bodies. The Juvenile Justice Act was amended in 1996, making it an offence of contempt of court carrying a fine of $3750, for parents who do not attend their child’s court hearings. This could be viewed as a positive step towards reducing youth crime.
It is obvious that prevention is better than the cure and by focusing on prevention strategies, as opposed to harsher penalties are issues which need to be considered. The police and justice system can only do so much in enforcing law on young criminals and at the present, the system is relatively ineffective in preventing youth crime and therefore changes need to be made.