Young offenders need our care, not prison: magistrate

Magistrate Annette Hennessey at the Rockhampton court house.
Magistrate Annette Hennessey at the Rockhampton court house. Allan Reinikka

ROCKHAMPTON'S leading magistrate, Annette Hennessy, says the more support provided to a child who has gone off the rails, the better the youngster's chances of leading a productive and lawful life.

Asked her thoughts on the perception youth crime problems were best solved by tough justice, Ms Hennessy's was a considered response.

"The way to help a child achieve their best is to support them," Ms Hennessy said.

"By the time young people get to court there's been a lot else going on for a long time ... it's probably a bit unrealistic for us to be the answer."

She said the region's youth support workers were doing good work.

"The big part of this job is being compassionate. You have to be realistic with it, but I think if we aren't compassionate, or empathetic to individual people and what position they are in, then I think that would cause further problems," Ms Hennessy said.

"Not many positive things come out of prison, unfortunately, despite their best efforts."

Ms Hennessy made the comments as the Australian Institute of Health Welfare released its latest report highlighting the gross over-representation of young indigenous people in juvenile detention.

The report found they are 31 times more likely to be placed in juvenile detention, with one in 217 indigenous young people aged 10-17 in detention on an average night.

The overall figure for young Australians, is one in 3000 each night.

These alarming statistics were contained in a report released by the institute on Thursday.

It focuses on trends over the four-year period from the June quarter 2008 to the June quarter this year.

AIHW spokesman Tim Beard young men are also over-represented in the juvenile detention population, accounting for 91% of young people in detention.

On an average night in the June quarter of this year there were 1024 young people in juvenile detention across Australia, the report found.

This increase in the level of over-representation of indigenous young people was greatest in unsentenced detention.

"Indigenous young people were 31 times as likely as their non-Indigenous counterparts to be in unsentenced detention in 2012, compared to 24 times as likely in 2008," Mr Beard said.

Topics:  australian institute of health and welfare

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