Sentencing data reveals truth about Queensland’s kids in court

Media statement

30 November 2021

Latest research by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council shows that fewer kids are being sentenced for crimes in Queensland.

Kids in court: the sentencing of children in Queensland (PDF, 6.1 MB), examines trends and patterns in the sentencing of children over a 14-year data period.

Council Chair and retired judge of the Childrens Court of Queensland, John Robertson, said Kids in court provides data-driven insights and perspective on offending of children across the state.

“The truth is in the statistics — the rate of children sentenced in court has fallen by just over 30 per cent, from 10.5 per 1,000 in 2009–10 to 7.1 per 1,000 in 2018–19,” Mr Robertson said.

“In fact, in 2018–19, we saw the lowest unique child offender rate over the 14-year time period.”

The Kids in Court report showing only a small proportion of children aged 10 to 17 years old find themselves sentenced by the court - less than 1 per cent of the population aged 10 to 17 years in 2018–19.

Mr Robertson noted that while fewer kids are ending up before the courts, those who do are being sentenced for a higher number of cases.

“The data shows just over half of the children going before the courts are repeat offenders being sentenced multiple times,” Mr Robertson said.

Further, Mr Robertson said that the proportion of custodial penalties increased in the Magistrates Court, with the number of detention orders more than doubling over 13 years from 95 to 209 cases.

More than half of sentenced children received a detention order under six months, while 30 per cent received a detention order between 6 and 12 months.

Mr Robertson said the most concerning finding in the Kids in court report highlights is the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the criminal justice system.

“While only 8.1 per cent of children in Queensland aged 10 to 17 years old identify as First Nations peoples, they represent almost half (44.6 per cent) of the cases dealt with by the Queensland courts,” Mr Robertson said.

“It is troubling to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children 5.5 times over-represented in the criminal justice system”, Mr Robertson said.

“The continuing over-representation of this cohort needs to be understood in the context of historical and ongoing disadvantage impacting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.”

Mr Robertson called on his experience at the bench of the Childrens Court to stress that children sentenced in the courts are often the most vulnerable members of our community.

“Children involved in the criminal justice system are often dealing with a complex combination of cognitive immaturity, personal challenges, risk factors associated with their communities, and social disadvantage.”

The Council created the Sentencing Profile series after it identified a gap in publicly available, in-depth and up-to-date analysis of different demographic groups and how they are being sentenced in the criminal justice system.

Mr Robertson said the next paper in the Sentencing Profile series will investigate sentencing trends and patterns for women and girls in Queensland.

The Sentencing Profile series, including the Baseline Report which provides a statistical overview of sentencing of all offenders in Queensland between 2005–06 and 2018–19, is available for free on the Council’s website.

Media inquiries

Laura Mac Kenzie 
A/Media and Engagement Manager
0459 887 077(07) 3738 9498