A BALLARAT man who was arrested as a teenager has thrown his support behind a magistrate’s call to treat 17-year-olds as adults.
Adrian Tapp, 20, was given a five-year good behaviour bond as punishment for a shoplifting offence when he was 17.
Mr Tapp yesterday spoke out in support of Ballarat magistrate Peter Couzens.
Mr Couzens this week again expressed frustration at being forced to sentence 17-year-olds as children for serious crimes.
The comments came during a case on Monday, where a teenager was sentenced for his part in three wild brawls.
In sentencing the teenager, now almost 19, Mr Couzens said he was “obligated” to treat the offender as a child.
“That’s up to the parliament to address,” he said.
Mr Tapp, who is still serving his good behaviour bond, said teens who commit serious offences should be thought of as adults.
“When it comes to real heavy crimes ... they should be accepted as adults,” he said.
“Even if they just turned 17, it’s still the fact they did something that bad, they should be accepted as adults for the punishment.”
Mr Tapp used the example of a friend, who he said had become a model citizen after spending time behind bars, as proof that tougher punishments work.
“I know a couple of people who have been to (juvenile detention) and they’re out and have changed completely because of the experience,” he said.
“(One friend) has got his life on track now and he’s also got an apprenticeship.”
Civil Liberties Victoria director Tim Vines said magistrates could still deal with teenagers effectively.
“Nothing stops (them) from giving harsh sentences, particularly if the child has a history of criminal activity,” he said. “We sympathise with magistrates as they deal with difficult cases, but the answer is not to do away with the rules, but to deal with them in a flexible manner.”
Liberty Victoria senior vice-president Jane Dixon said she supported the current regime of juvenile justice laws.
“The brain of the young person is still developing, even as they approach adulthood,” she said.
“Many young people will cease offending as they mature into adulthood. It is in the interests of the whole community that this occur.”
During a case in May, Mr Couzens said treating 17-year-olds as children was “naive”.
“I make no secret that those responsible for taking 17-year-olds out of the adult court acted naively,” he said.
“We (magistrates) are prisoners of the legislation.”