22 June 2018
BY TOM MINEAR
DETENTION of juvenile criminals has soared by 70 per cent in just three years.
New Children's Court of Victoria data shows 240 teenagers were locked up in 2017, the most since 2011 and a big increase on the 141 in 2014.This is despite the number of youths being found guilty of crimes falling to the lowest level in a decade: 2822 last year compared with 6633 in 2009.
The Children's Court said "the serious nature of offending" of "a small cohort of young people" had driven the surge in detention.Its annual report, tabled in state parliament yesterday, also highlighted a significant increase in the number of accused teenagers on remand. In May last year, before a new fast-track court process began, 79 teens were on remand.
Victoria's latest crime statistics, published last week, showed that the age group most frequently involved in crimes committed against the person, and in property and deception offences, were youths aged 15 to 19.The 23,461 incidents involving youths aged 15 to 19 in the year to March was down 7.5 per cent on the year before.
But the Crime Statistics Agency data showed the number of accused persons aged 10 to 14 had risen by 5 per cent, to the highest level in five years.Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos said government reforms of sentencing and bail laws were addressing problems posed by "a small cohort of young offenders".
"That's why we're building more beds in our facilities, including a $288 million high-security youth detention facility in Cherry Creek," she said.
The state Opposition's spokeswoman on families and children, Georgie Crozier, questioned how the number of offenders found guilty was at a low for the decade "despite the wave of youth crime".
"It's no wonder Victorians have lost confidence in (Premier) Daniel Andrews and youth justice," Ms Crozier said.
The Children's Court report showed it dealt with 18,133 child protection applications last year, up from 11,912 in 2012.
And 1600 intervention orders were granted, many of them dealing with adolescents who were violent in the home.Overall, 30 per cent of the Children's Court's work involved criminal cases.
Of the 2822 youths found guilty of crimes last year, 950 were placed on good behaviour bonds, 549 were fined, and 456 were placed on probation.
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