Federal responsibilities

18.6 The Commonwealth has direct responsibility for young federal offenders. These young offenders are dealt in accordance with procedures laid down under the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) (Crimes Act) usually by State or Territory police and courts.[15]

18.7 Offences for which a young person may be charged under the federal Crimes Act include destroying or damaging federal Government property (such as telephone boxes),[16] stealing federal Government property,[17] hacking into a federal Government computer[18] or trespassing on federal land.[19] Young people may also be charged with crimes, such as social security fraud, under other federal legislation.[20] Only a small minority of young people who come into contact with the criminal law are federal offenders.[21]

18.8 As well as its specific responsibility for young federal offenders, the Commonwealth has assumed responsibilities relevant to juvenile justice processes under international instruments. Articles 37 and 40 of CROC set down principles for the treatment of young suspects and offenders and require States Parties to develop and maintain a separate juvenile justice system. In addition, the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice 1985 (the Beijing Rules) and the UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty 1990 set out detailed principles regarding the treatment of juveniles by law enforcement agencies and in detention.[22]

18.9 The Commonwealth has an important role in assisting to develop national standards for juvenile justice that reflect Australia’s international obligations, are effective in promoting rehabilitation, impose appropriate penalties and ensure due process.[23] National standards for juvenile justice should be reflected in uniform legislative provisions. Compliance should be monitored comprehensively by the OFC.[24] This approach to juvenile justice would be consistent with that recommended in the Beijing Rules.[25]

18.10 Many community organisations and peak bodies support the proposed national standards for juvenile justice.[26] A number of State and Territory authorities consider that implementation and monitoring of the standards should be left to the States and Territories so that they can be adapted effectively to local conditions and policies.[27] The national standards for juvenile justice should set the framework, require best practice and establish benchmarks for performance. They should allow flexibility within this framework for particular appropriate local variations in practice. However, they should not permit local variations that breach human rights commitments. The process recently used to develop the Design Guidelines for Juvenile Justice Facilities in Australia and New Zealand may be a useful consultation model for the national standards for juvenile justice subject to recommendation 256.[28]

18.11 Some of the matters that the Inquiry considers should be included in the national juvenile justice standards are canvassed in the rest of this chapter.

Recommendation 192 National standards for juvenile justice should be developed to reflect Australia’s international commitments and ensure a proper balance between rehabilitation, deterrence and due process.

Implementation. The standards should be developed by OFC in consultation with the relevant State and Territory authorities, the legal profession, community groups, peak bodies such as juvenile justice advisory councils and young people.

Recommendation 193 Compliance by the Commonwealth, States and Territories with the national standards for juvenile justice should be monitored. As part of this process, the Commonwealth and each State and Territory should be required to provide a detailed profile of juvenile justice laws, programs and policies annually, including information on performance measures and outcomes. The community sector should be given regular opportunities to contribute to the monitoring process.

Implementation. These monitoring and consultation roles should be performed by OFC which should report annually to Parliament on the results.

[15] s 20C provides that a child who is charged with or convicted of a federal offence in a State or Territory court may be ‘tried, punished or otherwise dealt with’ as if the offence were against a law of the State or Territory.

[16] s 29.

[17] s 71.

[18] s 76B.

[19] s 89.

[20] eg Student and Youth Assistance Act 1973 (Cth) s 49.

[21] Statistics on the number of federal offenders are largely unavailable as most State and Territory police services do not record federal offences separately. However, see paras 2.79, 2.88.

[22] The Riyadh Guidelines, adopted by the UN in 1990, advocate the development of social policies aimed at diverting young people from the juvenile justice system.

[23] Beijing Rules r 30 emphasises the need for juvenile justice policy formulation to be based on appropriate research and review of trends.

[24] Several jurisdictions have already developed general legislative principles for dealing with juvenile offenders: Juvenile Justice Act 1992 (Qld) s 4; Young Offenders Act 1994 (WA) s 7. Note also the juvenile justice principles contained in the Young Offenders Act 1989 (Can) s 3.

[25] ‘Efforts shall be made to establish, in each national jurisdiction, a set of laws rules and provisions specifically applicable to juvenile offenders…’: r 2.3. In addition, the National Inquiry into the Removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children From Their Families recently recommended the negotiation of national legislation establishing minimum standards of treatment for all Indigenous children in a number of areas including juvenile justice: Bringing Them Home HREOC Sydney 1997 recs 44, 53a, 53b.

[26] eg Australian Association of Social Workers IP Submission 207;Kreative Kids DRP Submission 35; Education Centre Against Violence DRP Submission 43;Townsville Community Legal Service DRP Submission 46; Juvenile Justice Advisory Council of NSW DRP Submission 53; Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) DRP Submission 72; SA Children’s Interest Bureau DRP Submission 79; NSW Youth Justice Coalition DRP Submission 91.

[27] Qld Police Service DRP Submission 56; NT Government DRP Submission 71; WA Ministry of Justice DRP Submission 73.

[28] See para 20.29.