Legal Studies Young People and the Law Presentation

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The term "recidivism" is used generally to refer to repetitions of behaviour. It is usually used in a negative context, to discuss socially unacceptable or morally questionable behaviour which is repeated despite punishment or training to discourage the behaviour.

Recidivism is usually thought of as a falling back which reverses progress, and is sometimes also called backsliding for that reason. This implies that recidivism is negative, rather than positive, since it is a lapse back into unacceptable or unhealthy behaviour. As a result, recidivism is generally perceived as undesirable.

Within the context of general society, many people talk about recidivism in the sense of failing to stick with a treatment program. Without a conscious effort and a good treatment program, a participant will usually backslide into unacceptable behaviour.

In terms of law enforcement, recidivism refers to any case in which a criminal repeats a crime, despite being punished for it with fines or jail time. Many critics of penal systems look at their rates of recidivism to see whether or not they are effective. A high recidivism rate suggests that a penal system may not be doing its job.

In the criminal sense, recidivism is a serious problem. Crimes of all levels are hurtful for the victims, and most people would like the avoid them. As a result, administrators in a penal system like to believe that people will not repeat crimes after they have been punished for them. Such a repetition suggests the need for new approaches such as therapy or support programs designed to prevent recidivism. Especially with juvenile offenders, there is also a genuine desire for the criminal to go on to lead a life without crime, which can be difficult when crime is the only thing that someone is familiar with.


Examples of successful programs

Adventure-based programs

Adventure-based programs include those programs that involve taking a group of young people away from their usual environment or engaging them in adventure-type physical activity. Such programs are often accompanied by a therapeutic or skills development element, and are usually targeted at young people who have had contact with the criminal justice system or are 'at risk' of becoming involved in offending or anti-social behaviour. Typically the aim of these programs is to improve participants' self esteem, improve social and/or life skills, address the reasons for engaging in offending behaviour, or to provide an alternative to boredom and other less desirable activities. Evaluations of these programs show that outcomes vary. The success of these interventions depends on the mix of program components and aftercare that is provided.

Youth in Communities programs in the Northern Territory

More than 80 per cent of prisoners in the Northern Territory are Indigenous and many of them are young offenders. [1] The Gillard Government is committed to helping communities support their vulnerable youth through education, leadership and cultural activities. More than $28 million of the funding will be provided to the Youth in Communities program to support youth services that work with young Indigenous people. The Youth in Communities program will employ about 30 youth workers and about 30 trainee Indigenous youth workers to work in Indigenous communities throughout the Territory to provide guidance and encouragement to get involved in study, work and the community. This is a measure that has been implimented to address youth offenders.

Some programs that are currently being funded include;

Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council in Alice Springs have receive more than $2.5 million to deliver early intervention services, education programs, health and safety activities, and youth case management to youth at risk in Imanpa, Kaltukatjara, Apatula and Mutitjulu

YMCA in Katherine received over $884,000 to support youth at risk of isolation by developing their manual art skills, such as wood and metal work and technical drawing, as well as fostering their self confidence and reintegrating them into the education system.

Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation received $169,074 to run youth education programs, training and employment programs, as well as alcohol and drug awareness programs, court advocacy and police support.

East Arnhem Shire Council received more than $3.1 million to support communities to deliver a variety of programs, including music workshops, sports and youth leadership initiatives, bush trips, and self-harm intervention services. Other communities supported by East Arnhem Shire Council will use the funding to repair and renovate their local sporting facilities to encourage health and fitness among young Indigenous people.

Community safety projects

A range of other community safety projects will be delivered with a further $1.5 million.

The additional funding will pay for much-needed upgrades to safe houses, improvements to data collection on vulnerable communities and the development of local alcohol management plans. It includes:

$373,900 to upgrade and refurbish the Women's Resource Centre Project in East Arnhem. The project delivers culturally based programs aimed at empowering women to build strong families and communities.  With more space and better facilities, these programs will reach more women offering them a wider support network and greater access to health professionals and specialists.

$326,000 for the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women's Council to establish a records management system in the NPY Lands, which will enable the Council to better monitor and respond to incidences of violence and to employ a senior case worker to provide critical support to their growing number of clients.

$250,000 to refurbish five containers for the Northern Territory Police Child Abuse Taskforce to conduct traditional investigations.

$300,000 to support local initiatives for alcohol management including supply reduction strategies and community education initiatives.

NSW Youth programs

More than $186 million will be invested into juvenile justice services increasing funding for Youth Justice Conferencing and graffiti removal programs .Minister for Juvenile Justice, Barbara Perry, said $1.8 million extra funding to Youth Justice Conferencing will help divert young people from custody and from reoffending.

"Independent research shows that young people completing a Youth Justice Conference are significantly less likely to reoffend than those in any other justice stream," Ms Perry said. "Increasing the support for Youth Justice Conferencing will allow greater participation in the program and better outcomes for the victims, young people and the community." [2] Ms Perry said $1.9 million extra funding has also been provided for Juvenile Justice to work with young offenders who have committed graffiti related offences.

"This funding will enable Juvenile Justice to implement specific graffiti removal programs for young people with Graffiti Clean Up Orders, and to ensure that the young people complete a graffiti prevention program as part of their order," Ms Perry said. "This will help expand the already successful program where young offenders on community service orders clean up graffiti around the state."

The Keneally Government is investing in infrastructure to provide new units in juvenile justice centres.

"$9.2 million is allocated this financial year for the re-development of Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre, with works due to commence this year and be completed around June 2013," Ms Perry said.

"$12 million has been allocated to the construction of three new accommodation units and supporting facilities at Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre in St. Mary's, to allow transition from the temporary Emu Plains Centre.Improvements to Cobham and Riverina Juvenile Justice Centres will ensure a safer environment for staff and detainees. New units also provide purpose built spaces for intensive rehabilitation and education programs for young offenders.

Role of the Youth Court


The Youth Court is a specialist court for people aged under 18 years. The Youth Court of South Australia was created by the Youth Court Act, 1993. It has a criminal jurisdiction, a child protection jurisdiction and also hears adoption matters.


Child Protection Applications and Adoptions are the two civil proceedings dealt with by the Youth Court.

When dealing with child protection matters, the court registry operates under the Children's Protection Act. The objects of this Act are "to provide for the care and protection of children and to do so in a manner that maximises a child's opportunity to grow up in a safe and stable environment and to reach his or her full potential".  The Act further says that "the administration of this Act is to be founded on the principles that the primary responsibility for a child's care and protection lies with the child's family and that a high priority should therefore be accorded to supporting and assisting the family to carry out that responsibility".


The Youth Court is a court of record. Neither judicial members nor lawyers appearing in court are required to wear legal robes.

Court proceedings are closed to the public. The Youth Court Act states that the only persons allowed into court (and into the waiting areas) are:

officers of the court

officers of Family and Youth Services

parties to the proceedings and their legal representatives

witnesses while giving evidence

the guardians of the child

alleged victims

genuine representatives of the news media

Although the media are allowed into court, the Youth Court Act places restrictions on the reports of proceedings. Nothing may be published which may lead to the identification of a youth

The court has a duty to ensure that parties to proceedings before the court understand the nature and purpose of what is happening and to advise them about how and where to obtain legal advice.


In criminal matters the police decide how an offence will be dealt with in the first instance. The options available are: Police Caution, Family Conference, and Youth Court. The court hears trials ('not guilty' pleas) and guilty pleas (sentencing) in criminal cases for youths under the age of 18 years.  If a matter is referred to court, and the court decides that a hearing is not appropriate for the offence, it can refer the matter to the Family Conference Team. The court can also refer the matter back to the police for the administration of a formal police caution.

If the matter has been referred to a family conference, and the youth does not appear; pleads not guilty to the charge, or elects to have the matter dealt with by a court, the matter is referred to court. If at the time of the family conference the youth enters into an undertaking to do certain things, and subsequently does not do them, the matter may be referred back to the police for the laying of the original charge in the court.

Rules of Court

Rules of court are made from time to time regarding the business of the court, court costs, and practice and procedure of the court. To access the current rules of court click here.


The Youth Court may issue a summons requiring a person to appear before the court to give evidence or to produce evidentiary material (or both). Failure to comply with a summons to give evidence constitutes a contempt of court and is punishable by fine, detention (in the case of youths) or imprisonment (in the case of adults).

The usual fee for witnesses is $100 per day, plus travelling expenses. If a witness has lost more than this, he/she must fill in a declaration to claim additional expenses.

Arrest, bail and custody

The normal laws of South Australia relating to arrest, bail (eg the Bail Act), remand and custody apply generally to youths with some specific modifications provided by the Young Offenders Act.

The Young Offenders Act specifies procedures to be followed if a youth is arrested, including explaining to the youth the nature of the allegations, the right to seek legal representation, and taking reasonable steps to inform the youth's guardian.

The Youth Court may hear and determine bail applications and may grant bail on such terms as it thinks suitable. If bail is refused, youths may be detained on remand in facilities maintained by Family and Youth Services or the police.

Criminal sentencing powers

The court has the same powers as the Magistrates Court to sentence a youth for a summary offence,