An after-hours remand court for children will commence from September, an important initiative that will have a positive impact on the number of children on remand in Victoria.
We welcome the Victorian Government’s allocation of $1.33 million over two years to implement the Children’s Court Weekend Online Remand Court (WORC) through this year’s state budget.
Operating online, WORC will hear cases from across the state from 3pm to 9pm on weekends and most public holidays.
We will work in partnership with the Court, Youth Justice and Victoria Police in its operation.
‘Too often young people spend the weekend in custody after being refused bail by police and a Bail Justice, only to be released when finally brought before the Court,' said Executive Director, Criminal Law, Dan Nicholson.
‘We know that remand causes harm, disconnects young people from positive supports and increases the likelihood of further offending – and it is First Nations children and those from diverse communities that are disproportionately represented in the rates of remanded children.'
Since mid-2021, we have seen multiple examples of very young children remanded on weekends who were only released following a convening of extraordinary out-of-sessions bail hearings by the Children’s Court.
‘This new initiative will bring considerable benefit to child clients by providing them access after-hours to the court for bail hearings.'
The establishment of WORC complements our ongoing work with partners to drive down the numbers of children held in custody, particularly on remand.
We continue to stand with other legal aid commissions in the call to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, in line with the United Nations’ recommended international benchmark.
Evidence across all eight legal aid commissions shows that the majority of children in custody are held on remand before being found guilty of any crime, and that even short periods in jail have far-reaching consequences.
‘We continue to advocate for important changes to the law that will reduce the number of children on remand, including raising the age and removing the application of reverse onus provisions to children in the Bail Act,' said Dan.
Reviewed 24 August 2022