More care, not more courts to address Victoria’s youth remand crisis

Wednesday 30 September 2020

Anglicare Victoria CEO Paul McDonald has called for a more urgent approach to reduce the numbers of young people ending up in remand unnecessarily as highlighted by a new report released by the Sentencing Council of Victoria.

New figures released show the number of young people held in custody while waiting for a trial more than doubled over the last decade.

Mr McDonald said over two thirds of young people who were denied bail and remanded until sentencing were ultimately released without a sentence – showing an urgent rethink is required on interventions for young offenders in this state.

“The system is poorly reactive and unnecessarily punitive to the young offender awaiting trial, and with an almost complete absence of engagement and intervention within the families of these young offenders,” Mr McDonald said.

“Families are part of the solution to this problem. There are now proven youth justice models that work with the families of the young offender. They are demonstrably effective at reducing offending and recidivism, while reducing the strain on the remand system as well.

“Anglicare Victoria is conducting pioneering trials in Australia specifically directed at the youth justice group – particularly those who would normally be on remand – with strong results in rebuilding family relationships, reducing both reoffending and the potential of offending in younger siblings. Significantly expanding the delivery of this program would be a more prudent and positive way to invest government funding than more courts, more remand and more detention,” he said.

Mr McDonald said another Sentencing Council report – Crossover Kids – showed a large overlap between young people who are in the child protection system and the youth justice system. These children and young people need more care, not more courts. Almost half of those in youth detention are there simply waiting for trial.

“Young people aged from 10 to 13 in the youth justice system would be better served by therapy and intervention within a family-centred approach. Denying bail to those under the age of 14 should be stopped immediately, as these figures show this highly vulnerable group should not be on remand,” he said.

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