The goal of youth justice is to provide a fair and balanced response to young people in contact with the youth justice system. This response holds young people accountable for their actions, encourages their reintegration into the community and promotes community safety.
This goal is compatible with the Charter of Youth Justice Principles which underpins the Youth Justice Act 1992.
Overview of the Youth Justice Act 1992
The Youth Justice Act 1992 commenced operation on 1 September 1993 (as the Juvenile Justice Act 1992) with major amendments occurring in 1996, 2002 and 2010. The Youth Justice Act 1992 provides laws for young people aged 10-16 years old who commit, or who are alleged to have committed, offences.
The Youth Justice Act 1992 provides a code for dealing with young people who come in contact with the youth justice system including:
- procedures for police to respond to young people
- providing diversionary options such as cautioning and youth justice conferencing
- providing a range of sentencing option
- outlining how courts deal with young people
- the operation of youth detention centres
- recognising the importance of families and communities in the rehabilitation and reintegration of young people, in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- establishing the Youth Justice Principles.
In the Youth Justice Act 1992, there is a wide range of options to address offending. These options attempt to address the wide spectrum of offending that can occur. Offending can range from minor, "one-off" offending (which represents the majority of offending) to serious, persistent offending.
Youth Justice Policy Context
Youth justice policy and procedure development in Queensland supports contemporary youth justice practice. In 2007, the Youth Justice Services Practice Manual and Youth Justice Conferencing Practice Manual was produced. The manuals outline step-by-step processes for youth justice staff across both program areas. Each manual documents best practice and includes links to legislation, policies and forms.
To ensure contemporary practice in youth justice continues to be implemented in Queensland, youth justice policy and practice is subject to a cyclical review process. This ensures the following principles of the Youth Justice Act 1992 continue to be reflected in youth justice practice:
- a recognition of the vulnerability and maturity of children and their need for special protection when they have contact with the justice system
- the diversion of the young person from the criminal justice system as opposed to the institution of formal criminal proceedings
- wherever appropriate the detention of a young person as a last resort
- a focus on the rehabilitation of a young offender
- holding young people accountable and encouraging them to accept responsibility for their offending behaviour.
The interface between the youth justice system and the child protection system in Queensland is also an important consideration. Many youth justice clients have had contact with the child protection system, or their contact with the youth justice system may be a catalyst for child protection intervention. This has resulted in policy development to ensure high quality, coordinated service delivery is provided to young people and their families.