Young offenders' families, juvenile crime victims and local communities are having an increasing role in the juvenile justice system.
Their role is being significantly boosted through a major new community-based juvenile justice strategy.
The aim is to prevent young people from breaking the law, and to divert them from unnecessarily entering the sometimes counter-productive formal criminal justice system. Under the strategy, the Youth Justice Bureau would:
· co-ordinate the introduction of pilot community-based Youth Justice diversionary teams in Fremantle/Cockburn, Armadale/Gosnells, Joondalup and Kalgoorlie. The teams, including representatives from the Aboriginal community, will deal with minor juvenile offenders outside the court system and with the close involvement of communities and families;
· oversee the expansion of the successful court-supervised victim-offender reparation program operating in Midland, Northam and Bunbury to Fitzroy Crossing, Kalgoorlie, Esperance and Rockingham/Mandurah. Hundreds of young offenders have been brought face-to-face with their victims to apologise and discuss reparation;
· co-ordinate a serious offender taskforce, now working with hard-core care thieves and robbers, after their release from detention. About 130 community mentors are being trained or assessed, to spend up to ten hours a week with offenders and their families;
· advise on legislation for strict post-release supervision and to make young offenders spend more of their sentences under close monitoring. Currently, juvenile offenders could receive up to one third remission on their sentence, but the legislation calls for strict conditions, such as attendance at drug rehabilitation programs and co-operation with the taskforce.
Youth Justice Minister Eric Ripper said these were significant steps towards the introduction of a Western Australian version of the New Zealand Family Group Conference Scheme. This scheme replaced court involvement with round-table negotiations between victims, young offenders, their families and authorities, to thrash out a relevant and direct agreement to resolve the impact of the offence.