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Media Release - Sentencing: Young offenders (13 September 2001)

changing their sentencing options

The way in which the police and the courts, particularly the Children's Court, deal with young offenders (generally those under 18 years) is the focus of an Issues Paper released today by the NSW Law Reform Commission.

There is evidence that young offenders from particular ethnic backgrounds, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those from Pacific Island backgrounds, receive harsher penalties than young offenders from Anglo-Australian backgrounds.

The Commission is keen to find out why this is happening and is looking at ways to reduce the number of young people in these groups becoming young offenders.

'We are trying to find the best outcomes not only for young people, but also for the community,' said Commission Chairperson, Justice Michael Adams.

The way that the justice system deals with young people who commit crimes has been changing in recent years. In 2000, the NSW government created the Youth Drug Court and in 1997 the Young Offenders Act was introduced. Under the Young Offenders Act, young people who commit offences are given warnings or cautions or attend youth justice conferences with the victims of their crimes instead of going to court.

Other issues that the Commission is looking at include:
  • bail
  • the role of a specialised Children's Court
  • naming young offenders in the media
  • mandatory sentencing
  • sentencing guideline judgments
  • the role of victims and families in sentencing
  • criminal records
  • the effectiveness of the Youth Drug Court

The Commission wants to hear in particular from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Pacific Islander people, people from regional and rural NSW, people with intellectual disabilities and wards of the State about their experiences as young offenders.

Copies may be obtained from the Commission by email ( or telephone (02) 9228 8230. Alternatively, the Issues Paper is available on the Commission's web page at

Media contacts
Justice Adams, Chairperson: telephone (02) 9230 8737
Peter Hennessy, Executive Director: telephone (02) 9228 8230