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Concern at passing of Youth Justice Amendment Act

The Law Society Northern Territory (Society) is disappointed and concerned at the quick passage of the Youth Justice Amendment Act 2021 by the Northern Territory Government on 11 May 2021. The Bill was only introduced last week and despite many submissions to Government strongly opposing the proposed changes it contained, was passed with what appeared to be little or no consultation with the key stakeholders and organisations.

The amendments effected by the Act are regressive and represent a shift away from evidence based policy approaches adopted previously. The amendments also remove key changes that were implemented by the Government as a result of recommendations from the 2017 Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. In summary, the amendments:

  • make it easier for police to use electronic monitoring;
  • make it easier for police to use electronic monitoring;
  • restrict access for young people to diversionary programs;
  • will lead to far more children being held in detention on remand; and
  • remove the positive amendments made to the Bail Act 1982 and the Youth Justice Act 2005 since 2017.

The amendments will have a broad impact and serious adverse long term consequences for youth justice in the Northern Territory. The number of young people in detention in the Territory is already much greater than the national average and a majority of youths in detention are First Nations children. The Act and its amendments will have the devastating impact of putting even more children behind bars.

Although the Society acknowledges that the Government is attempting to find and implement solutions to ensure safer communities in the Northern Territory, the latest ‘tough on crime’ amendments are not the answer and are unlikely to result in any significant reduction in youth crime.

Peggy Cheong
Social Justice Committee Chair

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Email: lawsoc@lawsocietynt.asn.au

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