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Youth justice to get smart

Briefs

Cite as: December 2011 85(12) LIJ, p.16

The policing of young people will come under scrutiny from a newly formed coalition of legal and community organisations behind the Smart Justice for Young People (SJYP) program.

A 10-member steering committee was recently established to drive the program that aims to improve the training and accountability of police members in their dealings with young people.

SJYP is an offshoot of the wider Smart Justice initiative that was set up in 2006 to promote understanding of effective evidence-based criminal justice policies.

The LIV was a founding member of Smart Justice and has played an integral role in spreading its message – that community safety is enhanced by considered human rights-compliant policies, not those designed to score political points. The LIV joined the SJYP committee in September and as well as helping to steer the program will assist with media activities (see www.smartjustice. org/indexyoung.php ).

Youthlaw co-director Tiffany Overall said it was critical for the program to have the support of the LIV and the other committee members – the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Centre for Multicultural Youth, Youth Affairs Council of Victoria, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Victoria Legal Aid, headspace, Victorian Indigenous Youth Affairs Council, Jesuit Social Services and Youthlaw.

It is hoped that SJYP will become a voice on youth justice issues as they arise, such as the recently flagged minimum mandatory sentences for some 16 to 17-year-old offenders.

The program’s initial focus will be on educating young people, police and the wider community about policing practices and policies that affect youth.

Ms Overall said policing that violated the rights of young people was a long-standing issue that was being exacerbated by an expansion in police powers. “Police now have more legislative powers to control young people’s use of space, including offences such as disorderly conduct, move on directives and “knife laws” and expanded stop and search powers,” she said. “Use of these powers often results in conflict and misunderstanding.”

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