Friday, 18 July 2008

Young offenders face curfews

Young offenders could face curfews, strict limitations on their movements and controls on who they socialise with in an Australian-first program to be piloted in New South Wales.

Young people charged with low-level anti-social offences, who would usually be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act, can avoid serving time in a detention centre and will instead be placed on a conduct order for up to a year.

NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos says the scheme is not a soft option and young offenders risk facing court if they break the terms of the order, which can include school attendance requirements.

"Offenders can also be asked to undergo intensive case management with their families, forcing them to confront issues like drug and alcohol dependence," he said.

"They can also be referred to mental health treatment for mental health problems and their families can be given extra help for family support and housing."

Youth Action And Policy Association executive officer Rae Reodica believes the laws will unfairly target young people.

"It's obvious from where similar programs have been trialed or implemented both overseas and in other places that these sort of laws are open to abuse," he said.

Mr Reodica says there must be a better option.

"There's a significant amount of research to show that a firm commitment to diverting young people away from the system through working at those underlying causes is something that's positive both for the young people and society in general," he said.

The $14 million trial will run for two years and starts from December in Armidale, in the state's north-west, and the Sydney suburbs of Campbelltown and Mount Druitt.

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