Definitions

youth court

juvenile court

Special court handling problems of delinquent, neglected, or abused children. Two types of cases are processed by a juvenile court: civil matters, often concerning care of an abandoned or impoverished child, and criminal matters, arising from antisocial behaviour by the child. Most statutes provide that all persons under a given age (often 18 years) must first be processed by the juvenile court, which can then, at its discretion, assign the case to an ordinary court. Before the creation of the first juvenile court, in Chicago in 1899, and the subsequent creation of other such courts in the United States and other countries (e.g., Canada in 1908; England in 1908; France in 1912; Russia in 1918; Poland in 1919; Japan in 1922; and Germany in 1923), juveniles were tried in the same courts as adults.

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The Youth Drug and Alcohol Court of New South Wales is the generic name given to a harm minimization program administered through the Childrens Court of New South Wales. It is not a court itself, but is a children's court that specialises in criminal offences in which a child over 14 but under 18 years of age has an addiction to illicit drugs or alcohol.

The Court was the first Youth Court of its type to be established in Australia.

History

The establishment of the Youth Drug and Alcohol Court program was one of the outcomes of the New South Wales Government’s Drug Summit in 1999. The summit was called to address increasing community concern about the role of illicit drugs in the community.

One of the Summit’s recommendation was that the existing Adult Drug Court trial underway at Parramatta (see Drug Court of New South Wales be expanded to be available to young offenders. The initial trial was conducted at Campbelltown and commenced on 31 July 2000.

The program was established as a pilot for two years and has since been continued.

Jurisdiction

The Court is constituted by a single Children's Magistrate of the Childrens Court of New South Wales. It operates in Sydney at Parramatta, Bidura Glebe and Campbelltown.

Matters referred to the Youth Drug and Alcohol Court are then dealt with by that program, provided that the child meets the eligibility criteria and is accepted onto the program.

Magistrates

There are no special requirements for appointment of a children's magistrate to the program. This differs to the Adult Drug Court where the Governor of New South Wales appoints the judicial officer to the court.

Objectives

The objectives of the Court are to reduce the alcohol and drug dependency of children, to promote the re-integration of such drug dependent children into their families and the community, and to reduce the need for such drug dependent children to resort to criminal activity to support their drug dependencies.

The program differs to the Adult Drug Court in that children are dealt with pre-sentence rather than post sentence. A sentence on a child is postponed until full participation through the program has been undertaken.

Eligibility and selection for a program

Eligibility for the program is limited to young people who: 1. Are ineligible for a caution or conference under the Young Offenders Act 1997. 2. Are charged with an offence that is able to be dealt with by a Children’s Court (that is, the young person is aged between 10 and 18 years at the time of the commission of the offence and the offence is not a serious children’s indictable or traffic offence that is dealt with by other courts) 3. Have a demonstrable drug and/or alcohol problem. 4. Reside within the catchment area (Greater Sydney) 5. Are not charged with a sexual offence. 6. Plead guilty or indicate an intention to plead guilty if admitted into the program. 7. Consent to participate in the program. 8. Are aged between 14 and 18 years, although the YDAC Magistrate will have discretion to admit into the program young people under 14 years who are assessed as being suitable for admission. It is the discretion of the presiding children's magistrate to determine whether the child is referred to the program.

Evaluation

The program was reviewed in 2003 by the University of New South Wales and has been considered a success.

References

  • Home page of the Youth Drug Court of NSW, http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/drug_court/ll_drugcourt.nsf/pages/ydrgcrt_index
  • NSW Government Drug Summit 1999 Response - http://www.druginfo.nsw.gov.au/drug_summit
  • Final Report - Evaluation of the New South Wales Youth Drug Court Pilot Program (2004) [[University of New South Wales] ISBN: 0 7347 2830 1 http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/drug_court/ll_drugcourt.nsf/vwFiles/YDAC_Final%20Report%20_revised_March%2004PRINT.pdf/$file/YDAC_Final%20Report%20_revised_March%2004PRINT.pdf#target='_blank'
  • 2003 Conference Paper for Presentation - NSW Youth Drug Court Trial prepared by Senior Children's Magistrate Roger Dive, Martin Killen, Police Prosecutor, Debra Cole, Manager, Youth Drug Court Joint Assessment and Review Team, and Anton Poder, Senior Policy Officer, Attorney General’s Department.

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