Lifting the lid on sentencing kids in Queensland
Tuesday, 30 November 2021
The reasons why children are treated differently to adults in the Queensland criminal justice system, and the sentencing principles and considerations that must be considered is highlighted in the new Guide to the sentencing of children in Queensland .
Developed by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, the first publicly available sentencing guide for children aims to promote community understanding about the sentencing of children aged 10 to 17 years old.
Council Chair and retired judge of the Childrens Court of Queensland, John Robertson, said having been responsible for sentencing children during his time as a judge, it was important the community had a resource like this.
“There is a lot of confusion and misinformation in the community about the sentencing of young people”, said Mr Robertson.
“Research shows a child’s level of maturity and capacity to control their behaviour and make good decisions is still developing well into their teenage years, and beyond.
“This means that child offenders are more open and responsive to rehabilitation, rather than punitive sentences, as they don’t always fully comprehend the seriousness of their actions and behaviour.”
Mr Robertson said the sentencing of anyone is very complex, but particularly so for children where the exercise is a careful balancing act.
“On one hand, it is important that children who commit criminal offences are held accountable for their actions and accept responsibility for their offending behaviour and the impact it has had on victims.
“But it is also important to provide these often very vulnerable kids with the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and develop into responsible and contributing members of our community.
“As outlined in this guide, it is the role and responsibility of magistrates and judges, within the bounds of legislation and case law, to find the appropriate middle ground.”
The guide explains how Queensland courts sentence children found guilty of an offence and covers:
- information about the principles and factors that guide the sentencing of children in Queensland
- the role of the courts
- who is involved in the sentencing process
- how the courts decide the sentence, and
- different penalty and sentencing options for children.
The educational resource was developed with input from legal and justice agencies, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS), an academic from Bond University, Queensland Health, Legal Aid Queensland, the Office of the Public Guardian, the Queensland Family and Child Commission, the Queensland Law Society (QLS), the Youth Affairs Network of Qld and Youth Justice.
His Honour Chief Judge Brian Devereaux SC, and former Judge and President of the Childrens Court of Queensland, Michael Shanahan AM, who authored the Queensland Courts Service, Youth Justice Benchbook, gave permission for the Council to draw on content from the Benchbook and to simplify it for the community.
The Guide to the sentencing of children in Queensland is available for free on the Council’s website, as is the Queensland Sentencing Guide which explores how adults are sentenced in the state’s courts.