Protections for young people more pressing in social media age

Protections for young people more pressing in social media age

Friday, 7 June 2019

Our Executive Director of Criminal Law, Dan Nicholson, recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Herald Sun newspaper, disagreeing with calls to give police the power to identify suspected young offenders without a Children’s Court order. We believe such a move would lead to further stigmatisation of young people and harm their prospects of rehabilitation.

Letter to the Editor of the Herald Sun, published 31 May 2019

I respectfully disagree with your calls for police to be able to publicly identify suspected young offenders without the Children’s Court’s approval.

Our justice system treats children differently to adults. It recognises they have a life ahead of them and that they deserve the opportunity to make change.

Publicly identifying young people who are suspected of criminal activity has a lasting impact, including stigmatisation and reduced chances of social integration. These factors also make it more likely that a young person will reoffend.

Publicising names and images is particularly problematic given the rise of social media, which is notoriously hard to regulate. Such young people can expect their identities to be broadcast on multiple news and social media channels and to remain there despite court orders to remove the information. We have seen images on social media accompanied by widespread racist comments, increasing the impact on young people and their communities.  

Police have investigative and surveillance powers to find suspects. Publicising a young person’s identity before they have been convicted or even charged should be carefully scrutinised, and the Children’s Court is the appropriate forum to do that, considering any risks to public safety.

Dan Nicholson, Executive Director Criminal Law, Victoria Legal Aid.

More information

Meet our Youth Crime team.

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