This headline from The Age is missing a few critical words:
That sounds like adults committing crimes of violence are treated softly, as children, by the courts – which is not the case. It should be “Court treats violent children (even if they turn 18 before sentencing) like children”.
The story is about the fact that offenders who commit offences whilst they’re still “children” (under 18) are still sentenced as “children” (that word perhaps should be changed to “youth”) even if it takes some time for their case to find its way through the courts to sentencing. They’re not punished more harshly just because court processes take time and they’re often over 18 by the time the matter is actually dealt with.
Which seems perfectly sensible to me.
The focus on rehabilitation for young people is about reducing criminal tendencies while they’re still able to be steered onto a productive path. Abandoning them to the prison system would just be surrounding them – at an impressionable time – with hardened criminals who’d train them in other, more destructive skills. Going in hard with prison time at an early stage is completely counter-productive – it doesn’t teach them to respect authority, it teaches them that they and authority are to be permanently locked in combat for the next sixty years of their life.
The policy of treating young offenders as the age they were when the crime was committed makes perfect sense, and the policy of focusing on rehabilitation over deterrence (which has a reduced effect on young people anyway, since when they commit these offences they’re even less likely than adults to consider consequences) is the best way of protecting society in the long term.
Unfortunately, a cursory skim of the above article, the way it’s headlined and the Chief Magistrate is portrayed, would give a lazy reader already trained to think of courts as “soft” the impression that this was an example of “criminals being treated leniently”. (It’s how that unfortunate and inaccurate meme spreads itself.) I expect a Herald Sun article further sensationalising the “tension” any moment now.