Juveniles' Contact With The Criminal Justice System

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28th September 2009, 08:00am - Views: 954

People Statistics Australian Institute Of Criminology 1 image


28 September 2009

Media Release

Juveniles’ contact with the criminal justice system

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has released the first collection of data on

juveniles’ contact with the criminal justice system as both offenders and victims.

Juveniles’ contact with the criminal justice system in Australia presents the most recently

available data from every Australian jurisdiction except Tasmania on juveniles’ contact with

police, courts and correctional systems.

AIC Director, Dr Adam Tomison, said the report identifies what we know and don’t know

about juveniles’ contact with the criminal justice system.

“Australia’s juvenile justice policies have focussed on treating juveniles differently from adults

and using custody as a last resort for many years and our report shows that juveniles make

up a minority of those who come into contact with the different stages of the criminal justice

system,” Dr Tomison said.

“Most juveniles who were victims, were victims of offences against the person, assault being

the most common, followed by sexual offences. Similar to adults, male children are more

likely to be victims of physical assault, while females are more likely to be victims of sexual


The majority of alleged offenders, however, came into contact with police for property crimes

rather than those against the person.

Depending upon the jurisdiction, anywhere between one in 10 to one in four persons with

whom police have contact as alleged offenders are aged between 10 and 17. About one-fifth

of alleged juvenile offenders are girls, with the majority being boys aged between 15 and 17.

Although there has been a decline in the number of cases being heard in children’s courts

during the past decade and police dealt with most alleged juvenile offenders via diversionary

measures such as cautions and conferences, criminal matters in children’s courts comprised

seven percent of all criminal court matters in 2006-07.

The rate of juveniles in detention has declined over the past 25 years, but has stabilised in

recent years with an average daily number of just under 800 juveniles in custody – a small

number compared with the 20,000 adults serving terms of imprisonment.

People Statistics Australian Institute Of Criminology 2 image


“The report once again demonstrates that Indigenous juveniles continued to be over-

represented in almost every area – contact with police, in children’s courts and in detention –

as both victims and offenders,” Dr Tomison said

“Indigenous children were five times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be the subjects

of child protection substantiations for physical or emotional abuse and neglect, and made up

53% of all juveniles in detention on an average day.

“Information gaps and variations in data collection and demographic and legislative

differences among the states and territories make direct comparisons difficult and our

intention is to highlight trends and patterns over time.

“The report will form the basis of ongoing trend monitoring by the Institute to inform the future

research agenda in the field of juvenile justice,” Dr Tomison added.

For more information or to view the report visit 


AIC media contact: Scott Kelleher. Telephone: 02 6260 9244; Mobile: 0418 159 525.

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