Embargoed until 00:01 a.m. (AEDT) Thursday 2 April 2020
The Sentencing Advisory Council today released its second report on ‘crossover kids’, children who have had contact with both the child protection system and the youth justice system. The first report found that, of the 5,063 children sentenced or diverted in the Children’s Court in a single year, 1,938 (38%) had been the subject of at least one child protection report in their lifetime. This second report finds that the vast majority of those 1,938 children (94%) were known to child protection before they committed their first sentenced or diverted offence.
The second report also finds that, of the 525 crossover kids who experienced residential care (homes funded by the Department of Health and Human Services), more than half (55%) didn’t commit a sentenced or diverted* offence until during or after their first placement.
Key Findings of the Second Report
- Regional Victoria had a higher proportion (44%) of sentenced and diverted children who were known to child protection than the Melbourne metropolitan area (35%). Around half of sentenced and diverted children were known to child protection in some regional areas, including Wangaratta (57%), Bendigo (50%), Horsham (48%), Sale (48%), the Latrobe Valley (47%) and Geelong (45%).
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were substantially over-represented among crossover kids sentenced or diverted in regional Victoria, even accounting for higher Aboriginal populations in some parts of regional Victoria.
- Children sentenced or diverted in regional areas are likely to be younger (aged 10–13) at their first sentence or diversion compared with children sentenced or diverted in the Melbourne metropolitan area.
- Crossover kids first sentenced or diverted aged 10–13 are a particularly vulnerable group. They are more likely to be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, to have been the subject of at least one child protection report alleging physical harm, to have experienced out-of-home or residential care and to have experienced more carers.
- The overwhelming majority (82%) of children from out-of-home care backgrounds who entered the youth justice system had multiple carers, with one in four experiencing 10 or more different carers (23%). One child had 50 care placements with 36 different carers.
- Children who experienced residential care were about twice as likely as other sentenced or diverted children to have committed particular offence types. These included property damage, bail-related offences, drug offences and weapons offences.
Quotes Attributable to Council Deputy-Chair Lisa Ward
‘Most children who have contact with child protection don’t end up in the youth justice system. For those who do, sometimes it’s because of behaviour that otherwise might not result in police involvement, such as minor drug use or property damage. For others, their past experience of trauma, abuse and distress may contribute to serious and prolific offending, causing considerable harm to the community.’
‘Providing targeted programs to children who have experienced trauma and increasing support when children enter out-of-home care are key crime prevention strategies.’
‘The impact of trauma on a child’s ability to comply with an order and refrain from further offending should be a key consideration at sentencing and at other points in the criminal justice system.’
*In the report, the term ‘crossover kids’ or ‘crossover children’ refers to children sentenced and diverted in the Children’s Court of Victoria in 2016 and 2017 and who were known to the Victorian Child Protection Service in that they were the subject of at least one child protection report in their lifetime. A ‘diverted offence’ is an offence for which the child received a diversion order (for children charged with low-level offences with little or no prior history of offending). On successful completion of the diversion order, the child may have the charge (or charges) dismissed and receive a non-disclosable criminal record for the offences.
The full report, ‘Crossover Kids’: Vulnerable Children in the Youth Justice System, Report 2: Children at the Intersection of Child Protection and Youth Justice Across Victoria, and a factsheet will be available on the Council’s website on Thursday 2 April 2020.