A number of proposed amendments to the Northern Territory Youth Justice Act have been met with mixed reviews. The proposals by the government of the Northern Territory contradict the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the detention of children in the Northern Territory, offering $5 million towards building another detention centre, breath testing children, tougher consequences for breaching bail and that juveniles would commit a range of offences, would face court with a presumption against bail, which is not currently the case.
The proposed changes come at a time while Queensland is also reviewing and considering harsher youth justice laws.
The suggested reforms, as per Chief Minister Michael Gunner, are the result of his government listening to the concerns of his community and following the advice of police in the local areas.
The timing of the announcement is no coincidence, however, many have been critiquing the governments handling of crime as of recent, including an A Current Affair television report airing earlier this month.
While few are supportive of the tougher stance the government is taking, many a vehemently opposed.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance has condemned the proposed changes, stating that they will have a far more detrimental effect in the long term. Numerous studies have shown that the younger a child is when they first interact with the criminal justice system, the higher the chance of recidivism.
Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner Sally Sievers agreed with the ALA, stating that while everything must be done in an effort to reduce youth crime, a need for generational change with a multi-faceted approach would be far more effective.
“International jurisdictions – where major improvements have been achieved in youth offending and recidivism – have at their core reform measures focused on reducing the number of children and young people on remand,” Ms Sievers said.
The proposed changes would also disproportionately affect Indigenous children, who are drastically over-representative of juveniles in detention in these areas.
It has been widely discussed that Youth Justice needs to be reformed, but is this the right course of action?
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