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An escalating problem: Responding to the increased remand of children in Victoria

Our paper describes the dramatic increase in the number of children held on remand in Victoria, including a significant increase in children under 15. It finds that the increase is directly driven by reforms to the Bail Act in December 2013 that impose the same conditions and restrictions on children as are applied to adults.

We recommend a suite of nine legal, legislative and program reforms and responses, including

  1. Strengthen legal protection for children by: a) amending the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 to provide a child and youth specific bail process, and b) amending the Bail Act 1977 to exclude its application to children.
  2. Implement the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission Review of the Bail Act 1977 to amend Section 345 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 to:
    i. impose a presumption in favour of proceeding against children by summons rather than arrest and charge, regardless of whether the proceedings are commenced by police directly charging the accused, or by filing a charge with the court as currently provided for in section 345; and
    ii. to provide for the Magistrate to question the informant on oath as to why the child was not summonsed, if it appears to a magistrate that the informant has used the arrest and charge procedure inappropriately against a child.
  3. Develop a clear, published policy for Victoria Police detailing the criteria used to determine whether to proceed against children by caution, arrest or summons
  4. Increase the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years
  5. Amend the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 to include a legislative framework for diversion that imposes a presumption in favour of diversion and provides a flexible range of diversion options for police and courts
  6. Expand the Koori Children’s Court throughout Victoria
  7. Enhance Bail Support by ensuring 24 hour coverage of CAHABPS and statewide coverage of Intensive Bail Support
  8. Reduce the over-representation of children in out-of-home care in remand
  9. Implement a Bail Justice Training Package and enhance police bail training to include a focus on the unique vulnerabilities of children and the provisions of current legislation

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