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The impact of the NSW Young Offenders Act (1997) on the likelihood of a custodial order


Click here for the full report (pdf 697Kb)

Embargo: 14 February 2013, Thursday, 10.00am

The Young Offenders Act (YOA), introduced in 1998 to help reduce the number of young Indigenous offenders ending up in custody has succeeded according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

The YOA introduced the current system of warnings, cautions and youth justice conferences. Prior to the introduction of this legislation all juvenile offenders arrested by police went to court.

The Bureau examined the fate of 9,392 Indigenous young offenders and 19,703 non-Indigenous young offenders before and after the introduction of the NSW Young Offenders Act (YOA).

The aim of the Bureau's research was to find out whether the introduction of the YOA had any impact on (a) the probability that a young offender will receive a custodial order and (b) the time taken to receive a first custodial order.

The Bureau found that the risk of receiving a custodial order fell 17.5 per cent for Indigenous young offenders and 16.3 per cent for non-Indigenous young offenders.

The YOA also delayed the imposition of a custodial penalty for those who eventually received one.

Prior to the YOA, 10 per cent of young Indigenous offenders received a custodial order within 17 months of first proven court appearance. After the YOA it took 21 months for 10 per cent of the Indigenous cohort to receive a custodial penalty.

Prior to the YOA, 10 per cent of non-Indigenous young people received a custodial order within 36 months. After the YOA it took 57 months for the non-Indigenous cohort to receive a custodial penalty.

These results held up after controlling for pre and post YOA differences in sex, plea, offence type, age, number of concurrent offences, number of prior conferences, number of prior court appearances and number of prior custodial orders.

Further Enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn. Ph. 9231-9190 Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au