The Western Australian juvenile justice system is more efficiently dealing with serious cases, due to police cautions being issued to minor juvenile offenders.
The use of cautions is also dealing promptly and relevantly with minor young offenders, involving their parents, and highlighting families in need of welfare assistance.
Community Services Minister Eric Ripper said today there had been a 28 per cent fall since cautioning started, compared with the previous year, in the number of new charges listed for hearing in the Perth Children's Court.
Mr Ripper released the latest statistics to mark the anniversary of the introduction of police cautioning in Western Australia.
Cautioning was a joint Police and Department for Community Services initiative introduced on August 1, 1991 to make arrest the last resort for police in minor juvenile offences.
The system aimed to deal promptly and appropriately with children who committed petty offences instead of referring them, perhaps weeks later, to the impersonal formal justice system.
Mr Ripper said that to the end of May this year 3,226 cautions had been issued in the State - an average of about 320 each month.
Sixty-three per cent of these were for property offences, about seven per cent were for minor drug offences, and less than five per cent were for minor traffic offences such as failing to wear a motorcycle helmet - the same proportion as for truancy.
Administrative instructions issued to police officers stated that unless there were extenuating circumstances, cautions should not be issued for unauthorised use of a motor vehicle and breaking and entering.
"The evidence shows that police are using their discretionary powers responsibly to issue cautions in such cases as minor shoplifting, vandalism, or riding a bicycle without lights, which previously may have ended up clogging the court system," Mr Ripper said.
"Diverting minor offenders from the cumbersome court process has been shown to minimise the chances of them re-offending, and enables the court to better deal with more serious matters."
The Minister said the cautioning system had also strengthened the co-operation between the Police and the Department for Community Services, while highlighting families needing welfare assistance.
"It is achieving its key aim of reinforcing the role of the family in preventing juvenile offending, because it enables parents to be advised of their child's behaviour, encouraging family involvement and responsibility," he said.
Through the Killara out-of-hours and weekend welfare service in Victoria Park, cautions lead to contact by social workers with families needing help.