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Youth justice: challenges in responding to young people convicted of sexual offences

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journal contribution
posted on 2011-01-01, 00:00 authored by Wendy O'BrienWendy O'Brien
The clinical and criminological literature on adolescents who have committed sexual offences indicates that a pathologisation of young people and a labelling or overly punitive response is likely to be more harmful than rehabilitative. Accordingly, therapeutic counselling and diversionary schemes are seen as preferable to custodial terms in most instances. For adolescents convicted of sex offences, clinicians identify the benefits of comprehensive therapeutic care which involves family and is sensitive to the young person's context and culture. The benefits of this approach are documented and, although data are limited, indications are that recidivism is reduced where adolescents are provided with specialised counselling to encourage positive and non-abusive behaviours. Yet each jurisdiction experiences difficulties in ensuring the provision of equitable and comprehensive therapeutic services, particularly to regionally or remotely located youth. This paper draws on data from a national study of the services to children and adolescents with sexualised or sexual offending behaviours. With attention to the difficulty in providing services to regionally or remotely located adolescents, this paper identifies challenges around lengthy remand terms, the provision of pre-offence diversionary programs, and the provision of specialised services for young people serving community orders. For example, jurisdictions with the largest geographic service areas face enormous difficulties in providing specialised supervision for community-based orders. At present there are several jurisdictions where regionally and remotely located adolescents may serve the duration of a youth justice order without receiving sepcialised counselling to assist them in modifying their behaviours. The paper identifies the risks where specialised counselling cannot be provided, but also identifies specific initiatives designed to fill these gaps in service provision to youth justice clients.

History

Journal

Deakin Law Review

Volume

16

Pagination

133-154

Location

Melbourne, Vic

Open access

  • Yes

ISSN

1321-3660

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2011, Deakin University

Issue

1

Publisher

Deakin University