Disabled youth offend at higher rates

Young disabled people are over-represented when it comes to committing crime before the age of 18 due to institutional barriers holding them back, a new study has found.

Research by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), found offending by young people with a disability was higher than the general youth population.

"While young people with a disability make up just 3.5 per cent of all young people in the study group, their rate of interaction with the youth justice system is concerning," BOCSAR Research Director Suzanne Poynton said.

Young people with a disability make up 7.7 per cent of all young people with an offence before the age of 18, and 17.4 per cent of those with an episode in youth detention.

Dr Poynton explained that factors such as age of initial engagement with disability-related services, remoteness of residence and frequency of child protection contact all contribute to the likelihood of a young person with a disability having criminal justice contact before the age of 18.

The study identified 13,302 young people with a disability born in NSW from the start of 1997 to the end of 2000 and compared their rates of offending to those of young people without disability.

Young offenders with disability demonstrated a different offending profile.

They tended to have more violent offences, including domestic violence, sexual assault and related offences as well as offences against justice procedures.

BOCSAR recommended more institutional investment was needed to support young people with disability as a vulnerable group susceptible to offending.