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Identifying juvenile offenders does nothing for the community

Media attention has recently been drawn to orders made by the Youth Justice Court to supress the names of young people appearing before that Court.

Law Society Northern Territory (“Society”) president Mr Tass Liveris said, “It is important to remember that the Northern Territory is the only place in Australia where juvenile courts are completely open to the public and make no restriction on reporting proceedings. The Society has long held the view that the Northern Territory should step into line with the rest of the country on the issue of open juvenile courts. Mr Liveris said, “The Society made calls on the last Territory government to amend the Youth Justice Act to restrict the publication of youth court proceedings, but in spite of those calls there are no restrictions at all. We need to do what we can to reduce the alarmingly high levels of juvenile incarceration, reintegrate juveniles into the community and stop the cycle of re-offending.”

Elsewhere in Australia, there are heavy restrictions on publication of cases involving youth offenders. This is as much in the interests of victims and witnesses as it is for juvenile accused. It is also in the community’s interests, as publicly identifying juveniles in court proceedings stigmatises them and has a negative impact on their rehabilitation prospects, potentially leading to increased offending. That comes at a big cost to the taxpayer.

Mr Liveris further drew attention to the importance of legal representation for young people appearing before the Courts. He said, “It is also very important that the justice system has lawyers able to represent people in court. Our imprisonment rates are soaring and the federal government is cutting more money out of community legal centres and Aboriginal legal aid. This will come at a huge expense to the community.”

Mr Liveris said, “When people have to front court without a lawyer, it leads to greater injustice, inefficiency and more expensive outcomes for the taxpayer. It also makes the process so much more difficult for victims; without legal representation, cases can be more traumatic for victims than they already are, some may take longer to hear and some cases might not even be heard at all.”

The community benefits from a reduced crime rate, greater rehabilitation, fewer prisoners and fewer re-offenders. The media plays an important role in informing the public about cases that go through our justice system, but where juveniles are involved, it is generally better for everyone if the focus is on careful rehabilitation, punishment and treatment, rather than publicity of case details.

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