Sentencing Young People (WA)
When a young person is found guilty of an offence in Western Australia, there is a range of penalties that can be imposed. These include fines, community work orders and terms of detention and imprisonment. This page deals with sentencing young people in Western Australia.
The Young Offenders Act 1994 and the Sentencing Act 1995 govern sentencing in Westen Australia. Young people are usually dealt with in the Children’s Court and sentenced under the Young Offenders Act 1994. However, when the District Court or Supreme Court is dealing with a young person for a very serious indictable offence, it may sentence them under the Sentencing Act 1995. When this occurs, different sentencing orders are available and harsher penalties are likely to be imposed.
Principles of youth justice
Section 7 of the Young Offences Act 1994 sets out the principles of juvenile justice. These include that young people are to be dealt with in a way that encourages them to take responsibility for their conduct, that parents and guardians should be supported to care for and supervise the young person and that the community must be protected from offending.
When a young person is being sentenced, the court’s primary consideration should always be the rehabilitation of the youth into a law-abiding community member. A young person should be dealt with in a way that takes into account their age, level of maturity and cultural background and in a way that strengthens their family ties.
When a court is dealing with a young person for an offence that carries a penalty of imprisonment, it may impose a fine of up to $2000. A fine must only be imposed where the court is satisfied that the young person has the means to pay the fine.
A court may sentence a young person to a community-based order. This order may include:
- Attendance conditions
- Community work conditions
- Supervision conditions
This order must only be made where the young person is assessed as suitable for the order and consents to the order.
All community-based orders carry the following conditions:
- Not to commit another offence
- Comply with the reasonable directions of the supervising officer and regulations
- Inform the supervising officer of any change of address
A community-based order must not include a community work condition if the young person is under 12.
Intensive youth supervision order
A court may sentence a young person to an intensive youth supervision order, either with or without a custodial term. If the order is made with a custodial sentence, the term of detention must be for no more than 12 months.
If an intensive youth supervision order is made and a term of detention is imposed, the young person does not have to serve the term of detention unless the conditions of the order are breached. In this way, the order operates much as a suspended sentence does in some other states.
Detention and imprisonment
Under the Young Offenders Act 1994, a young person who is sentenced to a custodial term may be sentenced either to detention to imprisonment. A custodial sentence must be imposed only if there is no other appropriate way of dealing with a matter.
If a court imposes a term of imprisonment on a young person who is under 18, the term must be served in a youth detention centre unless the court specifically orders that it is to be served in an adult prison.
Unlike other states and territories, Western Australia has mandatory minimum sentencing laws that apply to young people in respect of many offences. Mandatory minimum sentencing requirements apply to young people who repeated offenders for residential burglary, grievous bodily harm and serious assaults on police.
When a mandatory sentence applies, the court does not have any discretion and must impose a penalty that is at least equal to the minimum penalty prescribed by law regardless of mitigating factors. Mandatory sentencing laws exist to ensure that penalties imposed for serious crime are not too lenient and meet community expectations. However, mandatory sentencing laws are often criticised as being arbitrary and resulting in unjust outcomes.
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