29 Apr 2009

Parliament warned against Youth Court move

6:40 pm on 29 April 2009

Parliament has been warned that dealing with 12 and 13-year-old offenders in the Youth Court would leave them vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse.

The Social Services Select Committee on Wednesday heard submissions on a bill to extend the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to 12 and 13-year-old offenders who have committed serious crimes.

At present, only 12 and 13-year-olds facing murder and manslaughter charges go before the Youth Court. The rest are dealt with in the Family Court.

Families Commission chief commissioner Jan Pryor told the committee that 12 and 13-year-olds are not too young to know right from wrong.

But Ms Pryor said they are too young to comprehend the procedures of the Youth Court - and it is inappropriate to put them in the dock.

The Law Society also opposes extending the Youth Court's jurisdiction.

It told the committee that not enough research has been done for the society to support the move.

But the Police Association says sending the most serious 12 and 13-year-old offenders to the Youth Court would be better for the individuals and the community.

Association head Greg O'Connor told MPs that many aspects of the legislation would help police handle young offenders.

The hearing is continuing.