The transition from juvenile to adult criminal careers


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Release date: 26 May 2005

More than 68 per cent of the juvenile offenders who appeared for the first time in the NSW Children's Court in 1995 reappeared in a NSW criminal court within the next eight years. More than one in 10 (i.e. 13 per cent) ended up in an adult prison within this period.

This is one of the main findings to emerge from a new study published today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. The study identified a sample of 5,476 juvenile offenders who appeared in the NSW Children's Court for the first time in 1995 and followed them up for a period of eight years.

The researchers found that, within eight years of their first court appearance, juvenile offenders re-appear in court, on average, 3.5 times. Rates of re-appearance in court, however, are much higher for Indigenous offenders and those whose first court appearance occurred when they were relatively young.

Indigenous offenders re-appeared, on average, 8.3 times over the eight-year follow-up period, while those whose first court appearance occurred when they were 10-14 years of age, reappeared, on average, 5.2 times over this period. Indigenous males, who were aged 10-14 at their first court appearance, re-appeared 12 times.

More than half (57 per cent) of the juveniles examined in the study went on to appear in an adult court within the eight-year follow-up period. The likelihood of a juvenile re-appearing in an adult court, however, was higher for Indigenous offenders, those with a prior record and males.

More than ninety percent of Indigenous juvenile offenders who were aged 16 at their first court appearance, ended up in an adult court and eighty-five per cent of this group with two or more Children's Court appearances went on to appear in an adult court.

Interestingly, the principal offence for which a juvenile is first brought to court, is not a good indicator of whether they will re-offend. Roughly equal proportions of those convicted of property or violent crimes went on to re-offend.

The Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, said the study findings highlighted the critical importance of intervening as early as possible to break the cycle of juvenile involvement in crime.

"This is not a job that can be carried out by the Department of Juvenile Justice acting on its own. If we want to reduce the risk of a juvenile getting involved in crime we need to improve their family life, their school performance and their physical and mental health".

"This can only be done if the Government agencies responsible for juvenile justice, family services, education and health work together to reduce the risk factors for juvenile involvement in crime".

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn on 9231-9190 or 0419 494-408