(Pictured Dan Rogers, Jordan English, Chief Justice Catherine Holmes
and Professor Peter Høj).
Robertson O’Gorman is a proud sponsor of the University of Queensland Law School. Each year the law school recognises the brightest legal minds through awards to its top performing students.
This week at Customs House, Dan Rogers presented The Robertson O’Gorman Prize in Criminal Law at the UQ Law Awards Ceremony. Robertson O’Gorman sponsors two prizes for students that receive the highest marks in Criminal Law.
The event included a key note address by Chief Justice Catherine Holmes of the Supreme Court of Queensland. Jordan English and Elizaveta Belongogoff won the Robertson O’Gorman prizes.
This year, the law awards were extra special for Robertson O’Gorman as Keilin Anderson, law clerk in our office, received a Pro Bono Centre Award. This is a great achievement as pro bono legal work is an important responsibility for all in our profession.
A full UQ media release can be found here:
Queensland’s age of criminal responsibility is 17; a whole year younger than the other states in Australia. This difference and the consequences it has on Queensland’s youth is deeply concerning.
Children under the age of 10 cannot be charged with a criminal offence. Between 10 and 14, there is a presumption that the child is not criminally responsible – but this can be rebutted if the prosecution can prove the child knew that what they were doing was wrong. Once a child turns 15, they are presumed to be criminally responsible for their actions as a juvenile offender.
These rules are the same across all Australian jurisdictions. However, in Queensland, unlike any other State or Territory, a 17 year old is not considered a juvenile offender but rather, an adult offender. This is a significant discrepancy that ought to be addressed by our State Government.
Young people are still undergoing important brain development, and both behavioural psychology and neuroscience attest that adolescents are less able to control their impulses, plan ahead, and weigh the consequences of their decisions before acting. This, and their susceptibility to peer influence, means that young people are attracted to novel and risky activities and may become involved in criminal behaviour. When this occurs, the solution is rarely a jail term.
Jails are not a good place for rehabilitating adults. For children, they are even worse. Studies have shown that prisons are like ‘crime universities’ for young people. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have released statistics that state that 71% of young people in detention between 2010-11 had returned to sentenced supervision within one year, and 91% had returned within two years. Youth justice should focus on rehabilitation to ensure that young offenders don’t become adult offenders.
It is not all doom and gloom! The impressionability of young people also means that they are receptive to positive interventions and can be guided to a better path. Diverting young people from formal court processes and from prison environments is most important. Rehabilitation must assume primary importance when dealing with young people.
We live in a modern world where a great volume of scientific evidence points to the conclusion that 17 year olds (and even those older than this) should not be considered criminally responsible to the same extent as adult offenders. Furthermore, we have the resources and professionals required to implement effective rehabilitation programs. These options should be made available to 17 year olds.
The Newman Government removed a provision in the Youth Justice Act which made imprisonment a last resort for young offenders. Fortunately, the Palaszczuk Government has announced that they will act on their election promise to repeal these laws. However, the current Queensland Labor Government has an opportunity to make further changes to the law which could bring Queensland in-line with the other jurisdictions in Australia.
Children occupy a very vulnerable space in our society. They are often voiceless, and even invisible, when arguments are fought over them. Protections such as increasing the age of criminal responsibility are key steps in securing justice for these people.
Robertson O’Gorman represents young people charged with criminal offences. Call us today on 3034 0000.
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking at the Queensland Law Society Awards Night. The night recognised the most recent graduates of the College of Law program; students who are about to be admitted as legal professionals. In my speech, I tried to emphasise that law graduates are extremely lucky and privileged to embark upon a career which can be full of personal reward. The opportunities are endless and your career is whatever you choose to make it. Queensland’s Chief Magistrate, His Honour Judge Rinaudo also spoke about tips he wished he had known during his career as a solicitor.
In my view, if you want to achieve a truly rewarding career in the law, you will only find this through a broader involvement in the law. A focus on the job of individual cases as an employee of a private firm or a government department will only take you so far. It is important for young lawyers to keep in mind a broader conception of their profession.
Young people occupy a vulnerable place in our society. They are still undergoing important brain development, and both behavioural psychology and neuroscience attest that adolescents are less able to control their impulses, plan ahead, and weigh the consequences of their decisions before acting.
Last week the LNP Government passed amendments to the Youth Justice Act. These amendments represent significant changes to the way in which the courts and our community treat children. Among the reforms include the removal of imprisonment as a last resort and secondly, the removal of prohibitions on the publication of child offenders (a green light for “naming and shaming” kids).
Last night, I participated in a discussion on Triple J’s Hack program where the Premier, Campbell Newman and I shared our views on these drastic changes to youth justice. For a link to the podcast of the program, click here.
Yesterday’s comments by Premier Campbell Newman represent a dangerous and unprecedented attack upon hard working members of the legal profession. Newman suggests that lawyers are part of the bikies “criminal gang machine”. In saying this, he suggests that solicitors facilitate the commission of criminal offences.
As a solicitor of this State, I find these comments deeply disturbing. They strike at the very heart of the profession’s reputation and trust among the community. Both the President of the Queensland Law Socety and the Queensland Bar Association responded publicly and quickly. This was very good to see given that a failure to publicly respond to such serious allegations would potentially, leave those in the community believing that there is some truth to these ridiculous claims. The reality is that lawyers are subject to onerous ethical obligations owed to the court. Lawyers are officers of the court.
Under the Queensland Government’s anti-bikie laws, the Department of Corrective Services are directed to imprison members or associates of bike groups in particularly harsh and unprecedented ways. Some have described the conditions as being similar to Guantanamo Bay. Read more
Last Tuesday, the LNP Government passed laws which, in effect, mean that all persons convicted of drug trafficking, must serve 80% of their head sentence. In reality, this will mean a period of actual custody of at least 2 years if a person is given a sentence with a parole relase date.
For my response, see Triple J’s podcast from last Wednesday, 7 July.
All trafficking is serious. However, what the AG does not realise is that this law will catch the big guys as well as the low level street dealers including young kids selling a few pills to their mates before a festival.
Very few topics provoke as much emotion and public concern as that of a released sex offender living amongst a given community. In the past two days, media articles, and the Police Minister’s comments, have shown this clearly. Different countries have grappled with this societal anxiety in a number of ways. In historical times, responses to sexual victimisation included mob lynching and capital punishment. More recently, less violent measures have been adopted for the release of sexual offenders such as half-way houses, preventative detention, offender registration and community notification.