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Crime – young offenders

Although morals and ethics form an important part of school education (helping young people to make sensible ecisions), most aspects of the law do not become clear until they reach adulthood. In NSW young people are legally separated from adults when it comes to rights such as questioning, identification, forensic procedures, having the right to a support person and automatic legal aid. Young people also have a separate court to deal with their and separate legislation offences.

The effectiveness of these Judicial and legislative provisions inevitably has mixed results. This merits an ongoing monitoring and review process that aims to identify the legal issues faced by young offenders ithin the criminal Justice system, and support and protect young people in the legal system. Issue: Maturity and Knowledge of the Law Although it is recognised that young people do commit crimes, they are not often serious crimes.

Legal issues faced by young people are often summary crimes such as drug offenses and petty theft, and these are dealt with in the Children’s Court. These types of crimes are considered less serious and often have alternatives to court such as warnings and cautions, especially for first time offenders, which is often the case for young people. Conversely, very serious offences such as homicide and exual offences are very rarely perpetrated by Juveniles.

The Young Offenders Act 1997 recognises the potential lack of experience and maturity that young people have in relation to the law. Although the law recognises that any person can commit a crime no matter of their age, Section 5 of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 states that, “It shall be conclusively presumed that no child who is under the age of 10 years can be guilty of an offence”. This means that, for children under the age of 10, doli incapax (the presumption that a child is incapable of crime) is a conclusive presumption.

The law ecognises that children mature at different rates, so that children aged between 10 and 14 are presumed to be incapable of forming the relevant intent to commit a crime, unless the prosecution can prove that the child knew what they were doing was seriously wrong, and not merely naughty. This was the case in England during the trial of John Venables and Robert Thompson who abducted and murdered a 2 year old boy, James Bolger, where the prosecution successfully argued against doli incapax, following testimony from a psychologist that the boys did know right from wrong.

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