Tasmania Law Reform Institute

Youth justice system responses to sex offences to be reviewed

The ability of the state’s youth justice system to respond effectively to sex offences committed by young people will be reviewed by the Tasmania Law Reform Institute.

The Institute has received State Government funding of $197,000 to conduct the review over two years.

Police in Australia initiated proceedings against 3,659 alleged sexual offenders aged 10-19 years between 2020-22. Meanwhile, around 20 per cent of Australians have reported having sexual or nude images taken of them without their consent. A sizeable number of sexual assault and imaged-based sexual offences are committed by young people.

“The spectrum of potential offending behaviour is extraordinarily broad, and striking the right youth justice response is challenging,” Tasmania Law Reform Institute Director Professor Jeremy Prichard said.

“Internationally, very little information is available to indicate how youth justice systems respond to sexual offences committed by young people.”

Professor Prichard, an expert on youth justice and cyber-sex offending, will lead the review. His team’s work on preventing cyber-sex offending has been recognised by the US Department of Justice and acknowledged in three national awards.

The review will examine responses including diversionary practises, the use of therapeutic services, addressing the needs of victims, education and early intervention to reduce repeat offending.

It will assess available data and consider the community conference process, and conduct interviews with police, departmental staff, counsellors, and support services.

“This is an area of the justice system that we need to understand better,” TLRI Principal Research Fellow Rebecca Bradfield said.

“Sex offences committed by minors can result in significant psychological distress for the young people affected and their families.”

A progress report will be available by mid-2024, with a final report to be delivered in 2025.

Published on: 07 Jun 2023