Law Week 2017 Justice Journeys

Carley

Carley spent two days job shadowing a Youth Justice court coordinator and case manager for Redlands Youth Justice Centre.

Carley’s passion for criminal law and youth justice was a perfect fit for her two-day job shadow at Redlands Youth Justice Centre. The fifth year law and criminology student made the most of her time there.

My first day started out early at Redlands Youth Justice Centre, based in Cleveland. I was greeted by the person I was job shadowing, Chris Woolley, and introduced to the team, which comprised of youth workers, case workers, and administration staff.

Youth Justice is part of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General but the division works closely with many other areas of the community, including the courts and Queensland Police. Chris’ role encompasses both case management and being a court officer. Case workers check in with their clients (the young people) and direct or refer them to services that will support or facilitate their rehabilitation, provide vocational training or alternative schooling.

The case worker assesses their risks, needs and responsivity in accordance with a set of principles – which underpins a risk/needs assessment and intervention plan.

The second role is that of a court officer. Chris shared with me what happens to a young person when he is working with them. There are two potential outcomes that can occur. The offender is diverted from the justice system via various diversionary options – for example the offender may be arrested or given a notice to appear (in court). Being arrested may result in either being released on bail or held in custody following arrest. The second outcome may result in no further action, an unofficial or official caution, drug diversion (per s 11 Youth Justice Act 1992) orreferral to a youth justice conference.

Diversionary outcomes are any outcome that divert a young person away from direct supervision or contact with the criminal justice system. This can include restorative justice orders as referred by police. The other pathway is a referral by the court which diverts the young person away from direct supervision. The court officer role is to make appropriate referrals and divert young people away from the criminal justice system where possible. This is particularly appropriate where there are already other community-based supports or strong positive supports and limited (or no) offending history. Other diversionary options include a range of unsupervised orders – for example cautions, reprimands, good behaviour orders or community-based referrals to early intervention services.

A Youth Justice conference is a restorative justice process that seeks to restore and repair the harm caused. A conference may be referred by a police officer or the court may order a conference pre- or post-sentence.

A conference is designed to shame the actions of the offender rather than the young person themselves. The aim of this process is to divert the young person from reoffending and coming back into contact with the criminal justice system. The public often considers this option a “soft option”, however, it involves the young person facing the victim and explaining what occurred and then hearing the consequences and impacts on the victim, and others (the victim’s family and friends), including the community. A conference is a therefore meaningful for the victim to understand why it happened.

Chris and I spent the rest of the day preparing for Childrens Court for the following day, which included 13 cases (some new and some existing clients). This involved going over recommendations we would present on sentencing options if asked by the court for our opinion.

The court officer provides up-to-date assessment information to assist the court make decisions on granting bail or sentencing options. This is essentially like providing a mini biopsychosocial (model of health and illness framework) assessment to the court. An officer may also make submissions on appropriate interventions, program availability and sentencing options that will lead to a reduction in recidivism.

For one young person, we were asked to prepare a sentencing report regarding the department’s views on an appropriate sentence. This report informs the court of the incident, the young person’s history, family history, their environmental factors including education and peers, risks, needs and any other plans that had been organised post-release from custody.

Carley Carley enjoyed her intensive two day job shadow with Youth Justice.

Chris Trigger, the Team Coordinator, then went through a presentation on youth justice and the work of the Redlands Youth Justice Service Centre. I have previously studied youth justice at uni, however, it was interesting to sit down with Chris and hear his opinions and learn more about what they do. This included providing early intervention, statutory youth justice and detention services to ensure young people are held accountable for their behaviour but also seek to support young people to become responsible members of the community.

On the second day, Chris Woolley and I went to the local Magistrates Court for Childrens Court, which is held every second Friday in Cleveland. We arrived early to meet the clients and their duty lawyer to determine their plans – what they are pleading, what sentence they are asking for or whether they are requesting an adjournment. This time also allowed us to update the clients’ profiles, including contact information and other information like housing, education, employment, and how they are doing, how home life is, whether they are attending school, and whether they are in contact with other youth and family services.

Due to confidentiality I cannot discuss the matters in court, however, I can comment on my experience. I was firstly granted permission to be present, as Childrens Court is closed to the public. As a Law and Criminology student, I understand the importance of a closed court and protecting young people from being named and shamed. I was impressed by the dynamic of the court and the approach taken by the Magistrate in dealing with young people.

The court has a new magistrate - Magistrate Deborah Vasta, who was previously a criminal lawyer and has worked for legal aid. My observation is that Magistrate Vasta takes a trauma-informed approach, balancing a cautiousness of the defendant with an understanding of why the offence might have occurred. I watch as Her Honour steps down from the bench to have a personal chat with the defendant and discusses the two paths this young person has in front of them. Magistrate Vasta discusses the effects of drugs and alcohol and the offender’s social networks, and how such affiliations can determine their offending. Her Honour offers the young person advice and recommendations.