Stricter bail reforms need to be backed up with employment opportunities so young criminals can contribute meaningfully to society, social advocates say.
Sweeping reforms introduced to crack down on surging youth crime will see longer detention periods, more intensive control programs, and a new offence targeting adults who groom children to commit crimes.
But local lawyers and social workers say these stringent reforms must be supported by jobs, employment opportunities and staff across all sectors.
New Youth Control Orders will ensure young offenders are supervised, restrict where and who they can visit and will require them to complete an education, training or employment plan or face incarceration.
Young people on an Intensive Monitoring and Control Bail Supervision Scheme will have to report more regularly to DHHS and Victoria Police.These reforms, said Acting Superintendent Zorka Dunstan, will give police another tool.
“It gives up another tool to try and assist the kids as best we can, as we can be limited,” Acting Superintendent Dunstan said.
The reforms have been welcomed by Victoria Legal Aid executive director criminal law Helen Fatouros, who said the programs could help address crime’s root cause if all parts of the sector are properly resourced.
Veteran social worker Les Twentyman and Highland LLEN executive officer Jannine Bennett said they had to be backed up with jobs and opportunities that engaged young people.
Extending the bail supervision scheme and providing intensive case management services across the state could provide real positives, Ms Fatorous said.
Irwin and Irwin criminal lawyer Jon Irwin said reforms suggesting the same magistrate oversee all proceedings relating to a young offender would ensure consistency in sentencing.
(The reforms) throw some rings around young people … hopefully they won’t fall through the cracks,” Mr Irwin said. The key was to address the issues before young offenders became involved in a crime cycle, Mr Twentyman said.
“These (uneducated) kids are the ones being targeted by other offenders. We’ve got to get to the kids before they are disengaged – not address the issues when they are on the end of the hill,” he said.
Ms Bennett agreed: “We need investment at the front end to save in the long term. We can’t give up on our people, if we don’t break the cycle it will cost us dearly in welfare payments and incarceration.”
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.