Mini Me: The Adultification of the Victorian Juvenile Justice System

Natalia Antolak-saper1
1Faculty Of Law, Monash University  , Beaumaris, Australia

In May 2017, the Victorian State Government introduced significant reforms to the juvenile justice system to, inter alia, ensure that ‘serious young offenders are held accountable for their actions and punished for their crimes’ (White, 2017). These reforms were introduced predominantly through the enactment of the Children and Justice Legislation (Youth Justice Reform) Act 2017 (Vic) (‘the 2017 Act’) and included the following changes to the juvenile justice system: the introduction of youth control orders which would facilitate the imposition of curfews and restrict a youth offender’s use of social media;  increase the maximum penalties for certain offences from three to four years; ensure that young offenders who commit serious crimes be heard in adult court rather than the Children’s Court of Victoria; and disclose information pertaining to the identity of youth offenders in certain circumstances. These changes herald a shift towards the increasing adultification of the juvenile justice system (Merlo and Benekos, 2010); a shift that poses significant challenges to an effective juvenile justice system that recognises that children who offend ought to be treated differently to adults (Taylor, 2016). This paper considers these reforms and suggests that they are inconsistent with the best interests of the child, and signal a disregard of the experiences in cognate jurisdictions that have embraced less punitive juvenile justice reforms. In doing so, it is hoped that a more appropriate framework for the Victorian juvenile justice system is developed and implemented.

Natalia Antolak-Saper is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Monash University. Natalia graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Criminology, and a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours. She completed her professional training with Lander & Rogers Lawyers, and was admitted to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria and of the High Court of Australia. In 2012 she received an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship and commenced her PhD which examined the extent to which the media impacts upon sentencing policy. She has published articles on diverse topics including directed verdicts, bail conditions, and gambling regulation. She teaches criminal law and trusts in the LLB and JD programs at Monash. Her research areas are in comparative criminal law and procedure, and domestic and international sentencing.


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