Victoria Legal Aid Executive Director of Criminal Law Helen Fatouros gave evidence at the Parliament of Victoria’s Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres on Tuesday 30 May.
The Victorian Parliament Standing Committee on Legal and Social Issues is conducting an inquiry into youth justice centres in Victoria, which will report to the Parliament by 6 September 2017.
We made a submission to the inquiry in March 2017 with 18 recommendations aimed at reducing the number of young people on remand and improving youth justice centres to better facilitate rehabilitation.
In providing evidence, Ms Fatouros said Victoria Legal Aid is a major provider of legal services to young people who face criminal charges before the Children’s Court. Through our practice experience, we have developed a deep understanding of what works well and what doesn’t work when dealing with young people who have been charged with, or found guilty of, criminal offences.
'The evidence overwhelmingly tells us that ‘tough’ responses do not work in reducing reoffending. Research highlights the potential for the immature brain to respond to punitive punishments in such a way as to make recidivism more rather than less likely.
The alternative approach involves a recognition that young people are different from adults and require specialist, therapeutic, welfare-based responses which focus on their rehabilitation and are tailored to address the causes of their offending and to prevent reoffending. Education programs are central to this.
We strongly advocate for this approach to youth justice as the most effective way to protect the community.'Executive Director Criminal Law Helen Fatouros
Ms Fatouros also said that children in out-of-home care are highly vulnerable to being placed on remand. Our report highlights that many children living in out-of-home care end up involved in the criminal justice system.
Ultimately, we believe that any strategy to address youth crime and to keep young people out of detention should engage young people before offending has started, identifying those who are most vulnerable. This involves careful application of targeted prevention initiatives in schools, residential care facilities, and through other services that are already working with children and their parents.
We are looking forward to the release of the Government’s review of youth justice by former Corrections Commissioner and Secretary of the Department of Justice and Regulation, Penny Armytage, and forensic psychiatrist Professor James Ogloff, with its focus on the adequacy of current operating models and existing youth justice programs.
Read the transcript
Reviewed 19 April 2022