Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 May 1995



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 May 1995

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Parliamentary Record 10


Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Wednesday 17 May 1995 a highly undesirable situation where mature adolescents in their late teens can be held in the same facility with children as young as 10 years of age. There are probably 2 observations to make here. Juveniles - that is, those who are under 17 years of age - are dealt with separately under the criminal justice system mainly for 2 reasons. In recognition of their immaturity, we do not apply to them the same degree of criminal responsibility. It is questionable whether shifting an adolescent to prison on his or her seventeenth birthday will assist the rehabilitation process. This amendment ignores the fact that the sentence reflects something which was done as a juvenile and, on chronology alone, removes them to the prison system. It should be noted that the Juvenile Court has the power to sentence a mature juvenile to imprisonment rather than detention under section 53(l)(g), provided they have attained the age of 15 years. In other words, the court already has the power, where it considers the juvenile is unsuited to detention in a detention centre, to sentence that juvenile to a period of imprisonment. The court is aware of the circumstances and maturity of the juvenile at the time of sentencing. Even though the court believes that the juvenile is best placed in a detention centre, under the provisions of this bill, the juvenile will be removed automatically to a prison upon turning 17. The minister explained that the reason for this is that, under current circumstances, some of these 17-year-olds are obviously physically and emotionally mature. They are in the same place of detention as very young offenders and that is not necessarily appropriate. While we accept that that is the case, and certainly there are occasions where there could be considerable problems, it seems to be more for administrative convenience that juveniles will be transferred to prison once they turn 17. After all, there are many 15-year-olds to whom the same criteria could be applied in terms of their being emotionally or physically mature and therefore presenting similar difficulties as the 17-year-olds. Doing it purely on the basis of age seems to be a problem. We do not see that it is necessary to change the legislation or to introduce a provision whereby juveniles will be transferred automatically on turning 17. However, I take the ministers point that, because the magistrates will be aware of the new provision, if they have a person before them who is likely to turn 17 during their period of detention, they may make provision for alternative arrangements, such as home detention, probation or some other measure that will not necessarily mean that they have to go to prison. There is a problem. In August 1993, at the Australian Institute of Criminologys National Conference on Juvenile Detention, which was held in Darwin, the minister stated: We are all aware o f the potentially damaging and contaminating effects that the adult prison system can have on juveniles, even when they are segregated from the adult prison population. Wherever possible, we should avoid custodial sentences, especially fo r young offenders. As far back as 1977, Mr Justice Muirhead made similar comments. He stated: The questions which must be paramount in dealing with juvenile offenders are how best to put an end to their conduct, how best to educate them, how best to channel their activities along healthy, law-abiding lines. It is only when a 3297