Call for sentencing change for young crims

Ulises Izquierdo
A different approach should be taken towards young criminals in Victoria, a new report says

A different approach to sentencing is needed for young criminals because their brains aren't developed until they're 25, a new Victorian report says.

The Sentencing Advisory Council report released on Monday says the lack of consideration for long-term consequences or an emotional drive to get immediate satisfaction are other factors explaining why young adults don't seem fully aware of their decisions.

Looking at neurological, psychological and social research, "Rethinking Sentencing for Young Adult Offenders" analyses how people aged between 18 and 25 differ from older offenders and what options are available for sentencing them.

The possibilities, the report says, range from making the age of an offender a specific sentencing consideration to introducing separate facilities in prisons or expanding the scope of "dual track" sentencing.

"Young adults tend to be more impulsive, less able to consider consequences and more likely to respond emotionally," council deputy chair Lisa Ward said.

"This report makes the case for a differential, tailored approach to sentencing young adults aged 18 to 25 in Victoria, in line with the research from disciplines such as neuropsychology."

The report said 15 per cent of the 2018 adult population in Victoria was aged between 18 and 25, but they represented almost a quarter of total offences sentenced in court.

Previous research quoted in the report shows young adults breach community correction orders at twice the rate of adults aged 45 and over.

It also puts the spotlight on how 53 per cent of Victorian prisoners aged under 25 return to prison within two years of release, compared with 44 per cent of the general adult prison population.

"Internationally, sentencing practices are changing to take account of the specific challenges of young adulthood and deliver more effective criminal justice interventions," Ms Ward said.

"However, Victoria currently has few specialist options for sentencing young adult offenders.There are a number of alternative approaches that could be considered."