Parents of juvenile offenders will be far more accountable for the crimes of their children, under planned new sentencing legislation.
Attorney General Joe Berinson said the powers of the Children's Court would be expanded to enable parents of offenders to be more readily made to account for the neglect of their children.
In particular, the court would be able to order parents of uncontrolled children to attend education programs to improve their ability to supervise their children.
The initiatives are part of the State Government's Law and Order package announced by Premier Carmen Lawrence.
Mr Berinson said existing legislation enabled courts to impose fines or imprisonment on parents who wilfully or habitually neglected a child under 14, leading to offending behaviour by the child.
The legislative changes planned by the Government would give the courts wider powers to impose these penalties.
The existing requirement to prove habitual neglect would be broadened so the courts could punish a parent where a single serious act of neglect was shown to have contributed to an offence by the child.
The Government would also increase the age limit to allow parents of children up to 16 years to be dealt with under these laws.
The Child Welfare Act currently empowers the courts to require parents to pay fines imposed on their children, and to make restitution to victims.
This provision would also be broadened so that it was no longer necessary to prove that the parents' neglect led to the particular offence in question. It would only be necessary to show neglect of an offending child for the court to exercise its discretion.
Mr Berinson said it was important that parents took responsibility for their children, and that children were also taught to take responsibility for their own actions.
It was not good enough for parents to wash their hands of unmanageable children when many services were available to provide support and assistance when asked for, he said.
"On the same basis, we must ensure parents have adequate means to properly discipline their children, and this is why I recently rejected a call by Childright Inc to remove existing Criminal Code provisions protecting parents who impose reasonable and moderate corporal punishment to correct a child," he said.
"Parents must be able to ensure order and instil mutual respect, and children must know the proper bounds in which they can operate."
The Criminal Code already sets strict limits to the degree of discipline which could be imposed:
· the punishment must be moderate and reasonable; and
· it must have a proper relation to the age, physique, and mentality of the child.
Mr Berinson said the Government was committed to ensuring parents had adequate powers to supervise their children, but the community had clearly indicated it would not tolerate parental neglect.