Latest sentencing data from the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council shows an increase in the higher courts sentencing or diverting children to restorative justice conferencing in 2021-22, surpassing detention orders for the first time.
According to Council Chair and former Childrens Court president John Robertson, the data reflects courts’ understanding that restorative justice can be an effective way of addressing youth offending when dealing with children under the Youth Justice Act.
‘Sentencing children should never just be about punishment,’ Mr Robertson said.
‘The current ‘lock ‘em up’ attitude doesn’t take in account that we know children don’t always fully comprehend the seriousness of their actions and behaviour.
‘Children are more open to rehabilitation than adults. That’s why, for suitable cases, we have a better chance of reducing a child’s risk of reoffending if they are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions.’
Restorative justice conferencing usually involves children meeting with victims and their family members to see firsthand how their behaviour has affected others.
‘In my experience, being answerable to their victim can be more confronting for children than answering to a court,’ Mr Robertson said.
‘Victims can ask the child questions and explain how their lives have been affected.
‘This helps the child to begin to understand the impact of their behaviour and start to repair some of the harm their offending caused.’
The Council’s latest sentencing trends data, released today, looks at cases sentenced in Queensland’s criminal courts in 2021–22.
The data shows an overall decrease in the number of children sentenced by magistrates in the Childrens Court for most offences, except for theft and unlawful entry offences (the most common offences).
In the higher courts, the most common offence children were sentenced for was robbery, although this number also decreased over the past two years. Probation was still the most common sentence imposed on children in the higher courts. Probation orders increased from 258 to 268 cases from 2020–21 to 2021–22.
Other key findings include:
* Queensland's criminal courts sentenced 114,589 cases in 2021-22.
* 94.9% of these cases were sentenced in the Magistrates Courts (which is a decrease of 15% from the previous year).
* The number of cases sentenced in the higher courts increased by 5.7%.
* For adult offending, drug offences were again the most common type of offence sentenced in the higher courts.
* In the Magistrates Courts, the most common offences adults were sentenced for were traffic and vehicle offences, with the next most common being justice and government offences, which includes contraventions of domestic violence orders.
The Council publishes sentencing trend data annually.
- The Council’s data reflects court referral to a conference as a diversionary or sentencing option.
- Courts can also refer children to a conference prior to sentence to help the court decide the appropriate sentence.
- Children can be referred to conferencing by police (instead of going through the criminal justice process) or by the courts.
- The most common outcome for children’s cases heard in in the Magistrates Courts was also referral to a restorative justice conference (either as a diversionary or sentencing option) for the third year running.
Contact: Hayley Carter/Steph Martlew