Our youth crime forum

Our youth crime forum

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

140 advocates from around the state came together to hear about a range of approaches to helping young people in the justice system during a year of changes in the youth justice sector.

The Youth Crime Forum at Marvel Stadium heard from speakers from the courts, the bar and Victoria Police who are committed to improving outcomes for young people in the justice system.

‘The forum is a great day for practitioners from the criminal and family divisions of the Children’s Court and the adult jurisdiction to hear about updates to the law and issues affecting their clients charged with criminal offences’ said Anoushka Jeronimus, Program Manager of Youth Crime.

The President of the Children’s Court, Her Honour Amanda Chambers, was the keynote and spoke about the importance of legal aid to achieving the rehabilitative focus of the youth justice system.

‘It's a sad fact that by the time we turn our attention to these kids, when an offence has been committed and someone is a victim, it's often too late. All the factors and disadvantages have already been set in place. They're no longer children in the eyes of many. They're dangerous teens on the way to becoming dangerous adults’, said Her Honour.

Dan Nicholson and Her Honour Amanda Chambers

Her Honour urged noted that for young people to truly be put on a healthy track after offending, lawyers needed to work alongside other supports. She also encouraged lawyers to use the provisions of the Children Youth and Families Act and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities to ensure that the rights of young people were central in their advocacy. 

‘That's why Victoria Legal Aid is vital. Community involvement is crucial - all professionals from all sectors are vital in developing a multidisciplinary environment to help these young people build better lives and achieve their full potential’ she said.

‘It was great to hear from Judge Chambers about how the recent changes in the youth crime space such as bail reforms and serious youth offending reforms means the role of lawyers has never been more valuable than right now’, said Youth Crime Program Manager Anoushka Jeronimus.

‘The forum is aimed at equipping practitioners with key information about the agencies, system and law and to share practice knowledge to do our business even better and continue to advocate strongly on behalf of children both in Court and out’, she said. 

Deputy Managing Lawyer of Child Protection team and accredited specialist in Children’s Law, Erica Contini presented about using the Charter in day to day work outside of the Court room.

‘We need to think creatively about our use of the Charter. It places obligations on public authorities to act and make decisions compatibly with human rights.  We can use this to help advocate for better out-of-court outcomes for children, for instance in the cautioning and diversion space’ said Erica.

‘This also becomes important when ensuring our client’s fundamental rights such as being presumed innocent and the right against self-incrimination are preserved and not used against clients when police exercise their prosecutorial discretion’ she said.

Erica said the forum was an opportunity for lawyers from different parts of the justice system to see the links between their work. ‘It’s crucial for practitioners to have a solid understanding of both divisions of the Children’s Court in order to achieve the best outcomes for clients, particularly in light of what we now know from VLA’s Care not Custody campaign and supported in the Sentencing Advisory Councils’ recent report of  a very high prevalence of cross-over children in the system’, said Erica.

Senior lawyer in our Family Violence Program Jenny Anderson said this is also particularly true in the area of information sharing and the impact on our clients when their information is being shared between child protection, youth justice, community support services add the police. 

More information

If you’d like to hear more about the Youth Crime forum please email our Professional Legal Education Team Professional_Legal_Education@vla.vic.gov.au

Read more about our Youth Crime Program

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