NT Introduces Youth Justice Amendment Bill To Implement Royal Commission Recommendations

Tuesday 26 March 2019 @ 2.06 p.m. | Crime | Legal Research

The Youth Justice and Related Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 (NT) (‘the Bill’) was introduced to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly on 20 March 2019 by Dale Wakefield, the Minister for Territory Families (‘the Minister’). The Bill has been subsequently referred to the Social Policy Scrutiny Committee, with the final report due to be submitted by 20 June 2019.

The Bill aims to implement 11 recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (‘the Royal Commission’). The Royal Commission’s final report was discussed in a previous Timebase article.

The Bill’s amendments are focused on "youths" as defined under section 6 of the Youth Justice Act 2005 (NT) as someone who is under 18 years of age. In circumstances where proof of age is not available, a youth is also defined as a person who is apparently under 18 years of age. This definition also includes a person who committed an offence as a youth, but has since turned 18.

Bail Amendments

The Bill makes amendments to the Bail Act 1982 (NT) (‘the Bail Act’) and the Bail Regulations 1983 (NT) in regards to the youth bail application process, and the bail options available for young people  The Bill will decriminalise breaches of bail conditions for youths, and will also insert a new section 8A, in the Bail Act that will set out a presumption in favour of bail for young people. Section 8A provides that a youth will be entitled to be granted bail unless they have been charged with a prescribed offence or they present an ongoing and serious risk to the community.

In regards to bail applications, the Bill introduces section 24A, which outlines additional principles to be taken into consideration by the Police and the Court when making a bail determination for a young person. These principles are to be taken in addition to the current bail principles in section 24 of the Bail Act. The Bill’s explanatory statement explains some of the key principles to be taken into account under the new section:

  • the need to consider all other options before remanding a youth in custody
  • the desirability of allowing the living arrangements and the education, training or employment of the youth to continue without interruption or disturbance
  • the need to minimise the stigma to the youth resulting from being remanded in custody
  • the cognitive capacity, health and developmental needs of the youth

Additionally, section 24A(4) also ensures that bail cannot be denied solely on the grounds that a young person does not have any or any adequate accommodation. This is a response to the Royal Commission’s findings that some young people were denied bail because alternate placements could not be identified.

Breach of a bail condition is also to be decriminalised under the Bill. The explanatory statement of the Bill explains that the criminalisation of bail breaches, unrealistic and inappropriate bail conditions and a lack of support services to help the youth comply to these conditions has led to increased numbers of young people entering the youth justice system. However, bail will be revoked if the youth breaches a condition of a conduct of agreement.

Youth Justice Amendments

The Bill also amends the the Youth Justice Act 2005 (NT) (‘the Youth Act’) and the Youth Justice Regulations 2006 (‘the Youth Regulations’).

Under these amendments, the process under which the Police conduct their interviews will be changed. These changes are aimed to ensure young people understand their rights and have earlier access to legal assistance. The Bill would make amendments so that police interviews of youths can only be conducted after they have informed the young person of their ability to access legal advice, provided access to legal advice in a place and manner that affords privacy, and informed the young person that a friend, relative, responsible adult or support person may be present during the interview. Additionally, if a youth exercises their right to silence, the Police cannot continue to interview the youth. In conjunction with these changes, the Youth Regulations is also proposed to be amended, so that within an interview, the Police must keep a record that the young person has been advised of the right to silence and the right to contact a friend, relative, responsible adult or support person.  The recording must also show if the youth have elected to exercise any of these rights.

Additional amendments proposed to the Youth Act and Youth Regulations include:

  • A young person charged must be brought before Court within 24 hours of their charge
  • Increased accessibility for youths for diversion
  • All proceedings that involve a youth will be held in a closed court
  • Searches at detention centres are to be conducted by a staff member of the same gender, and in the presence of a staff member of the same gender
  • Search at a detention centre can only be conducted by a maximum of two staff members

Other Amendments

The Bill also amends the Police Administration Act 1978 (NT) (‘the Police Act’)  in regards to arrest of a young person, disclosure of a youth’s identity and the time in which a youth can remain in Police custody.

Under section 123 of the current Police Act, the Police have the power to arrest someone without a warrant, where the Police believes on reasonable grounds that the person has committed, is committing or about to commit an offence. Under the Bill, this power is only to be exercised where arrest is an action of last resort. The Bill also amends section 137, which is in relation to the time a young person can be held in custody by the Police without charge. Under the new amendments, the necessity of holding a youth in custody must be reviewed and recorded every 4 hours by a Senior Sergeant or member of higher rank. The youth can also only be held for up to 24 hours, and after this time the youth has to be released. Further extension of this time can only be extended upon application to a Local Court Judge, and every subsequent 4 hour holding period must be applied for.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


Related Articles: