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State Government announces review of young offender laws

Sam JonesBroome Advertiser
Corrective Services Minister Bill Johnston.
Camera IconCorrective Services Minister Bill Johnston. Credit: Andrew Ritchie/The West Australian

The WA Government will undertake a “comprehensive” review of the State’s young offender laws, including examining the over-representation of young Aboriginal people in detention.

Corrective Services Minister Bill Johnston has instructed the Department of Justice to determine whether the Young Offenders Act 1994 is continuing to efficiently achieve its objectives with contemporary youth justice trends.

The review announced on October 4 will examine the over-representation of young Aboriginal people in detention, the effect of cognitive impairment disability on diversion, and the isolation and separation of detainees.

The current iteration of the Act aims to divert young people from the formal criminal justice system where possible — to use detention as a last resort.

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The review comes as the State’s corrective services, police force and courts face and adapt to a changing youth justice landscape, with an August 12 meeting of Attorneys-General reaching an agreement to develop a proposal to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility across Australia.

“Participants noted the Australian Government’s commitments in relation to justice reinvestment, which are intended to enable First Nations communities to establish locally tailored initiatives that address the underlying causes of incarceration, including to reduce the contact of First Nations children with the criminal justice system,” a WA Government spokesperson said after the August meeting.

Mr Johnston said the review aligned with the State Government’s priority of reducing youth reoffending.

“Youth justice is a highly complex area involving extremely challenging young people who have committed crimes or are at risk of doing so — and in many cases they need help to get back on the right path,” he said.

“Young Aboriginal people make up a disproportionate number of young offenders and young people in detention, which will be considered in the course of the review.

“Few would argue against the need for greater diversionary and rehabilitative measures for WA’s youth and addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the justice system.”

As part of the review, a consultation process will be undertaken, with issues papers circulated to seek feedback from stakeholders on diversion methods, rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.

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