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Santosh Krishnan

Each year, about 5000 young people have their first contact with the criminal
justice system. For most, it will not be the last Long-term data shows that 54
per cent of juvenile [offenders] will be reconvicted within 10 years and, on
average, four times in that period. [A 10-year study to be released in May
2012] by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research followed 4938 young
offenders who had their first caution, conference or proven court appearance
in 1999. It shows that 9.4 per cent ended up in custody.
Young Lives Trapped in the System by N. Wallace, Sydney Morning Herald,
April 2012
With reference to the stimulus article and other relevant examples,
assess the role and effectiveness of the criminal law in achieving
justice for young offenders and for society. (15 MARKS)
Criminal law has a pivotal role in achieving effective outcomes and justice for
young offenders and society. This is necessary as about 5000 young people
each year (data) have contact with criminal law, and thus, they need to be
effectively dealt with to achieve just outcomes for young offenders and
society. Such issues regarding young offenders are evident in the problems
surrounding the age of criminal responsibility, the role of the Childrens Court,
the role of Youth Justice Conferencing, and recent bail law reform.
In NSW, there exists a conclusive presumption of the age of criminal
responsibility as being 10 years of age, in an attempt to achieve justice for
young offenders. However, while this presumption of doli incapax under the
Childrens Criminal Proceedings Act (1987) aims to prevent young persons
from making uninformed life decisions from limited life experiences, it has
also criticised as being outdated and outmoded (SMH, June 2012). Senior
NSW Childrens Court Magistrate Stephen Scarlett declares that children
th
today are more mature and responsible than their counterparts in 18 C
Rural Britain, and has thus called for a decreased age of criminal
responsibility. This is because of instances such as R v. LMW (1999), where 10
year old LMW was held guilty of murdering Corey Davis. While such judicial
decisions have prevented young persons being trapped within the system
(data), it also raises questions regarding the effective administration of
justice. While the laws aim is to prevent juvenile offenders [being]
reconvicted within 10 years (data) through rehabilitation programs, issues
surrounding the age of criminal responsibility can increase the chances of
young offenders being convicted, if they do not fully understand the
implications of their actions. Consequently, the age of criminal responsibility
can be a hindrance to achieving justice for young offenders and society.
Similarly, the legal reform of NSWs bail laws have caused increasing
problems that have limited the effectiveness of criminal law in achieving
justice for young offenders and society. The Bail Amendment Act 2010
overturned the presumption in favour of bail for young offenders, leading to
a 32% increase in the number of youth in remand (ABS, 2012). The amount
of time spent by young offenders in a remand facility is the major influence in

Santosh Krishnan
determining the frequency of their contact with the criminal justice system
(data). This has led to the Bail Reform Alliance condemning NSWs bail laws,
as juveniles charged with petty offences are now forced to mix with
hardened criminals (BOCSAR Media Release 2012), and this has led to 54%
of [juvenile] offenders being reconvicted within 10 years, and on average,
within four times in that period (data). Consequently, it is evident that the
changes to the Bail Act have led to the law being decreasingly effective for
young offenders and society.
Furthermore, the operation of the NSW Childrens Court also poses further
issues regarding achieving justice for young offenders and society. Being a
closed court, the court prevents the public defamation of a childs identity
and thus ensures justice for young offenders. However, the lack of a presence
of a jury means that decisions are highly dependent upon judicial discretion
and the magistrates consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors.
While this can mean that rehabilitation is deemed as a paramount
punishment as evident in R v. GDP (1991), inconsistencies in sentencing can
limit the effectiveness of criminal law in achieving justice for young offenders.
This is evident in the case of Matthew Milat (2012), who received a penalty of
43 years for manslaughter, highlighting how young offenders can have a
negative first contact with the criminal justice system (data) in a way that
can inhibit the effectiveness of criminal law in achieving justice for young
offenders and society.
As a result, to stop the increasing number of young offenders driving into the
criminal justice system, youth justice conferencing was introduced through
the Young Offenders Act 1997 (NSW). This aims to divert young offenders
from a proven court appearance (data) in accordance with the UNCROC
Article 3 paramountcy principle, which emphasises the best interests of the
child. However, while youth justice conferencing has been effective (68%
reoffending decreased to 52%, BOCSAR Nov 2011), it has been highly
underused, and has resulted in the number of young offenders ending up in
custody (data) continually increasing. Many police officers do not send
young offenders to youth justice conferencing, but send them to court to
allow the judge to sentence the young offender. This defeats the purpose of a
diversionary program promoting re- integration into society through
therapeutic justice (Noetic Review 2010). This has thus limited the
effectiveness of criminal law in achieving justice for young offenders and
society and has continued the trend of young offenders being reconvicted
within 10 years [of offending] (data).
Consequently, it is clear that despite its attempts to ensure justice for young
offenders and society, criminal law has been somewhat ineffective due to the
continually high level of young offenders being reconvicted (data) and
driven into the prison system due to bail law changes and intrinsic social
problems.
WORD COUNT: 838 WORDS
COMMENTS: Maybe a bit longer than what was needed make sure you

Santosh Krishnan
leave at least an hour and forty minutes or so per option. The stimulus was
well integrated, but the society portion of the question was not dealt with
sufficiently, and I felt you added it on a lot. However, on balance, your
evidence was recent and was great overall.