The Youth Justice Act 1997 commenced on 1 February, 2000.
Section 159 of the Act created the Magistrates Court (Youth Justice Division) as the Criminal jurisdiction applying to persons under the age of 18 years at the time of the alleged offence. In addition to regulating court processes, the legislation makes transparent and accountable provision for diversionary practices and conferencing the purpose of which is to encourage youths to take personal responsibility for their actions.
The legislation introduced significant changes to the previous 'welfare' philosophy that underpinned the processes by which youths, who are alleged to have committed offences, were dealt with by the criminal justice system.
Very broadly, the Youth Justice Act seeks to secure to youths who are alleged to have committed offences the same entitlements as adults who are similarly placed. However, the protection of the community and the enhancement of the rights of victims of offending behaviour are prominent aspects of the legislation.
Importantly, the Youth Justice Act seeks to encourage youths to take personal responsibility for their actions.
The legislation significantly extends the sentencing options available to the Court in order to encourage acceptance of that responsibility and otherwise to achieve the purposes of the Act.
The use of the Community Conference provisions of the legislation, either by Police or as ordered by the Court, has seen a reduction in the number of less serious matters coming before the Court. Indeed this approach reduces the impact of the court process on many parties, victims and offenders alike.
Video conferencing technology is frequently used to link to the Ashley Detention Centre for formal remands as an effective alternative to transporting detainees to Court for appearances. This results in less disruption for the detainees and reduces the risks that arise from transporting persons by vehicle.