The following statement may be attributed to the President of the NT Bar Association, Duncan McConnel.
Statement in response to the Northern Territory Government’s youth justice policy announcement.
The Northern Territory Bar Association has serious concerns about the proposed changes to youth justice policy recently announced by the Northern Territory Government. It is disappointing to see the Government reverse its commitment to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Youth Justice and Child Protection. The new announcement by the Government does not represent an evidence-based approach to legislating. The proposed changes threaten to undermine and limit the ability of the Courts to deal appropriately with young people in the criminal justice system in a way that will produce the least harm to young people and the community more broadly. The NT Bar Association is concerned that it moves us closer to failed mandatory sentencing policies of the past, and holds fears that the chronic injustices of the past will only be repeated should the proposed changes continue to be pursued.
The proposed changes will result in more children in detention, more often. The evidence is clear that putting children in detention is harmful and does not make the community safer; such an approach produces outcomes which are worse for the community, as well as the children involved. The proposed changes, if implemented, will therefore not only not achieve what is intended, but will cause significant harm.
The Northern Territory already faces significant and systemic issues concerning youth justice, and the proposed changes will only add to those burdens. The NT Bar Association calls on the Government to engage in a thorough and principled process to develop an appropriately balanced youth policy, that will address the problems of youth crime in a substantive way by addressing the underlying causes of youth misbehaviour.