Page 2491 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 1 July 2008

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One of the other important changes that this bill introduces is criteria for therapeutic protection orders which allow the chief executive to confine a child or young person over the age of 10 years old to a therapeutic protection place if they pose a significant risk of significant harm to themselves or others. The requirements for such an order are quite strict, as they should be, for an order that will result in the loss of liberty of the child. Before making an order, the Children’s Court must be satisfied, amongst other things:

(a) confinement of the child is necessary to prevent the child engaging in harmful conduct:

(b) there is no-one with parental responsibility who is willing and able to prevent the child from engaging in harmful conduct; and

(c) the chief executive has tried or considered less restrictive ways of dealing with the child without success.

The bill also allows the chief executive to confine a child for up to two working days, without a therapeutic protection order, if the chief executive reasonably believes that the child or young person is in need of emergency therapeutic protection and meets the criteria for an order. This means that the government is able to take emergency action in situations where time is of the essence and there is an immediate risk of harm.

I am glad to see that the explanatory statement makes it clear that this is a measure of last resort and should be used for the shortest necessary time. I presume that, in such emergency situations, this urgent confinement will be used only to allow time to prepare and present an application to the Children’s Court for an actual therapeutic protection order.

The bill includes detailed provisions on juvenile crime and sentencing. I note that, in the minister’s presentation speech on this bill, the minister referred to rehabilitation as the primary purpose of sentencing young people but also referred to purposes such as community safety and accountability.

In dealing with young offenders, it is very important that all concerned realise the dangers of allowing children to grow up into a life of crime as adults. Rehabilitation and accountability go hand in hand in this endeavour and it is crucial that young offenders are given a clear demonstration of the serious consequences that await them if they continue to commit crimes into their adulthood. At this age, when long-term criminal habits are not yet formed, it is imperative that young offenders are confronted with the enormity of the choices that they are making and the long-term effects that those choices will have on where they end up in life. My own inclination is that one cannot separate accountability from rehabilitation at all unless the latter is merely code for some kind of coddling approach.

Young offenders are more amenable to be turned off the path of crime than adult offenders who have formed long-term criminal habits but they absolutely must be

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