The number of young Australians under supervision due to their involvement in crime is falling, as juvenile justice agencies, courts and police try to keep children out of the system.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released its annual Youth Justice In Australia report that reveals a 23 percent drop in the number of young people aged 10-17 who were under supervision in the last five years.
In 2014-15, this added to 11,360 young people during the year, down from 14,298 in 2010-11.
“It is an overwhelmingly positive picture that we are seeing,” Deputy Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology Rick Brown told The Huffington Post Australia.
“From our view, this is a declining rate that has been going on for at least a decade. This seems to reflect the fact that there are fewer young people who are committing crimes in the first place.”
Justice supervision can be imposed on those who have been sentenced for a crime or who are awaiting the outcome of a court matter. It involves both supervision in the community and in detention.
The AIHW report revealed a decrease in the rate and number of young people -- both Indigenous and non-Indigenous -- in supervision across all jurisdictions where data was made available. The Northern Territory and Queensland were exceptions, where there was no consistent trend.
According to Rick Brown, this declining trend points to both a decrease in youth crime activity and the type of offences being carried out.
“The majority of young people that commit crime will be on minor offences and often on a one-off basis,” Brown said.
He also attributes the decline to changes in legislation and policing activity that diverts child offenders from the system early on.
“Australia has strong diversionary policies for first-time offenders and whilst they vary from state to state, this is a strong feature of our criminal system.
“It is common now for the police to caution an individual so that they don’t end up with a criminal conviction and in that way, they are not processed. This notion of increased risk through improved security is becoming more commonplace.”
ABS figures reveal that between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the number of young people aged 10–19 who were proceeded against by police each year dropped by 20 percent. And the number of young people with matters finalised in the Children’s Courts dropped by 19 percent between 2010–11 and 2013–14.
The report also indicated 85 percent of young people were under community supervision in the last year, with the remainder in detention. Over the five-year period, the rate of those in detention has dropped from four to three per 10,000.
But more than half of all juveniles in detention nationally were on remand (or unsentenced) -- a concerning trend, according to Brown.
Research performed by the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2013 revealed that one third of those who had received a period of remand went on to receive a period of detention.
“There’s potential there to do more around schemes for bailing young people rather than remanding them,” Brown said.
“That’s an area where this is still work to be done.”