The Criminal Justice System is highly effective in dealing with young offenders due to the importance placed upon rehabilitation and reintegration into the community. Significant law reform such as the Young Offenders Act 1997 has focused purposefully on rehabilitation for young offenders rather than severe punishment. Furthermore, legal and non-legal measures such as Youth Justice Conferencing and the Children’s Court Clinic have been critical in providing means for Young Offenders to gain support. Moreover, Yong Offenders Law has reflected the moral and ethical standards of the community, highlighting the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in dealing with Young Offenders.
Law Reform has been critical to ensuring that the criminal justice system is effective in dealing with young offenders and providing options for rehabilitation. A significant piece of legislation is the Young Offenders Act 1997 which is the primary legislation covering Young Offenders in New South Wales. The Act focuses on the rehabilitation of Young Offenders seen in section 3 (a); which states, “establish a scheme that provides an alternative process to court proceedings”. Furthermore, section 7 (a) states, “the least restrictive form of sanction is to be applied against a child”, highlighting how the Act places importance upon rehabilitation. The Act also contains three alternatives to court; warnings, cautions and youth justice conferences. All of these alternatives aim to assist the individual in admitting to the crime that they have committed and learning from the experience. The Bureau of Crime and Statistics Research found that due to the introduction of these alternatives to court, the risk of receiving a custodial order fell 17.5% for Indigenous offenders and 16.3% for non-Indigenous offenders. Moreover, the Young Offenders Act delayed the imposition of a custodial penalty. Before the Act, 10% of non-Indigenous young offenders obtained a custodial order within 36 months, whereas, after the Act, it took that same 10% 57 months to receive a custodial penalty. Thus, Law Reform has been effective in dealing with Young Offenders through prioritising rehabilitation and providing successful alternatives to prison.
Legal and non-legal measures have been effective in increasing support for Young Offenders to allow for the opportunity for rehabilitation and reintegration. An essential legal measure that has assisted with this is the addition of Youth Justice Conferencing in the Young Offenders Act 1997 as an alternative punishment for Young Offenders. The purpose of the conference is to allow the offender to take responsibility for their action and to provide the offender with appropriate support services to help them overcome their difficulties. A Sydney Morning Herald article also highlights the importance of restorative justice on victims stating, “Restorative justice gives victims a voice and…opportunity to feel they have some agency in the legal system.” A BOSCAR 2012 report in NSW found no significant difference between the offender’s dealt with in a Youth Justice Conference and the court regarding re-offending. An explanation for this could be how the conference is not able to address underlying issues such as parental neglect and abuse; however, the underlying focus of the conference on rehabilitation for the offender and victim showcase the moderate effectiveness of the legal measure. A non-legal measure which is useful in dealing with Young Offenders is the Children’s Court Clinic. The Clinic’s primary function is to make clinical assessments of children and submit these reports to the court. These reports can then be used in sentencing so that the offender receives appropriate sentences. Overall, the clinic is effective in allowing the court to consider any mental issues that the young offender may have before sentencing. Thus, legal and non-legal measures are moderately effective in providing services for young offenders that focus on rehabilitation and reduce the risk of recidivism.
The reflection of moral and ethical standards in Young Offender Law highlights the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in dealing with Young Offenders. Children are vulnerable members of society, and the community understands this and wants to ensure punishment that focuses on rehabilitation. A clear of illustration of this is in section 5 of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 which states that “no child under the age of 10 years can be guilty of an offence.” Furthermore, any child under the age of 14 has a rebuttable presumption of doli incapax. Moreover, R v LMW is a crucial case which portrays the details of doli incapax. A 10-year old boy was charged with manslaughter after dropping another boy into the water knowing he could not swim. In the initial case in the Children’s Court, the judge found LMW not guilty which reflected the standards of the community. However, the Director of Public Prosecution appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, highlighting them representing the rights of the victim. The jury in the Supreme Court also found LMW not guilty of manslaughter conveying the reflection of moral standards in the community, that a child cannot have serious intention to commit a crime and doesn’t deserve a significant punishment. Moreover, there are some significant differences in the Children’s Court Proceedings that reflect the standards of the community. Children’s proceedings are conducted in a closed court, which means that the media is allowed to sit inside, but the public is not. This is to ensure transparency with the public but to maintain the security and the privacy of the child still. Thus, the law reflects the moral and ethical standard of the community highlighting the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in dealing with young offenders.
The criminal justice system is highly effective in dealing with young offenders due to the importance placed upon the rehabilitation and reintegration of children. Significant pieces of law reform have been crucial in providing options other than imprisonment for young offenders. Furthermore, the introduction of youth justice conferencing as well as the Children’s Court Clinic have struggled to see conclusive evidence but have still provided alternative options for young offenders. Finally, the reflection of moral and ethical standards in young offender law has highlighted the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in dealing with young offenders.