IT seems the state government’s push to reform sentencing provision isn’t moving as fast as some in the legal system wish.
The statements by regional co-ordinating magistrate Peter Couzens, as reported in The Courier yesterday, regarding children’s court matters provides an insight into the frustration that continues to mark judgments.
Mr Couzens, in a broad-ranging attack on sentencing provisions, called for 17-year-olds to be treated as adults.
“The whole issue of 17-year-olds in the Children’s Court is naive and should be readdressed,” Mr Couzens said.
“I can understand why the community is frustrated and bemused by sentences imposed by children’s courts,” he said.
His message can’t be much clearer. It’s a view that will no doubt carry weight, and support, in the general public, particularly in regard to instances of serious offending or constant re-offending. The argument that young people are more prone in the modern era to offending is often based upon selective memory about a perceived lack of respect of property and people in years long gone.
The reality is that each generation in Australian society has grappled with this issue.
This said, identifying an appropriate age for offenders to face the children’s court is not without its challenges.
Australia, almost universally, accepts that an adult is someone 18 or older. It’s when greater vehicle licencing responsibilities are enacted. It’s when you can legally consume alcohol.
But age does not determine maturity and it does not influence the severity of offending in many cases.
What must be considered is the frustration of those within the legal system at the seeming lack of flexibility in sentencing for young offenders. The Children’s Court was set up to provide specific options for rehabilitation and prevention for young people which many would say is not working as intended.
The state government, for its part, has committed to implementing many reforms through a review of sentencing, including baseline sentences for serious offences which will appease victims of crime groups.
A solution is complex and has troubled lawmakers and enforcers for decades, but the government should not discount the thoughts of magistrates who are dealing with the consequences on a daily basis.