Jarrod Bleijie
Jarrod Bleijie Tom Huntley

Tough juvenile law overhaul ‘stifles rehab’, lawyers warn

SUNSHINE Coast criminal lawyers have slammed the Newman Government's new juvenile offender law reforms, labelling the changes as stifling a young person's chances at a better life.

Bosscher Lawyers principal Anna Smith said Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie's hardline approach to juvenile offenders did not cater for the rehabilitation of young people.

Mr Bleijie admitted on Tuesday that the reforms were tough, but fair and necessary.

The Magistrates Court of Queensland 2012-13 Annual Report showed 321 juvenile offenders went through the courts at Caloundra, Maroochydore and Noosa in the 12-month period.

"We are cracking down on dangerous, repeat young offenders but also helping at-risk young people find a better path in life," Mr Bleijie said.

"The number and seriousness of offences committed by young people have been growing at an alarming rate for years."

The reforms include making all juvenile criminal histories available in adult courts, removing detention as a last resort to give the court more discretion during sentencing and transferring juvenile offenders to adult correctional centres when they turn 17.

Ms Smith said the changes related to removing detention as a last resort would open up more juveniles to detention and erode their chances of rehabilitation.

"The reforms take away a lot of measures that community-based orders can assist with and what this does, it puts the young offenders in detention whereby they are exposed to harder criminals, especially if they are now getting moved to adult detention at 17," Ms Smith said.

"You are setting them up instead of trying to assist them."

Chelsea Emery and Associates principal Chelsea Emery said her major concern with the reforms was the naming and shaming of juvenile offenders in a small community.

"The naming and shaming of young people, especially in a small community like the Sunshine Coast, gives these people absolutely no prospect of rehabilitation," Ms Emery said.

A thorough review of all aspects of the youth justice system is also under way and a blueprint will be released in the coming months.


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