Australian Institute of Criminology

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Drugs, crime and young offenders

Media Release

03 May 1999

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs

New research on juvenile crime from the Australian Institute of Criminology sheds light on the relationship between drugs and crime.

"The Institute's research shows that drug offenders tend to appear in court charged with other types of crime only after they have been prosecuted for a number of offences", Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone said today.

"After around four court appearances, drug offenders in particular begin appearing in court for violent and property offences."

"The Institute's research shows why early intervention approaches are important. If we can help young offenders early, we stand a good chance of stopping them appearing in court for violent offences."

"In many cases the families of juvenile offenders who are at the early stages of their criminal careers need support in their efforts to help their children to get out of crime."

"For all of us it is simply commonsense to work at preventing crime rather than having to deal with its consequences."

"The Institute suggests that programmes to address the causes of young people's offending and divert young people at the early stage of a criminal career will result in significant decreases in the rates of juvenile crime and delinquency."

"The report concludes that rehabilitative sentencing in the form of mandatory drug treatment may help in breaking the drug-crime cycle that seems to develop after the fourth proven court appearance."

The research is contained in the study Juvenile Offending: Specialisation of Versatility, by Carlos Carcach and Simon Leverett which examines whether juvenile offenders specialise in particular crimes and whether they progress to more or less serious crime. The paper is No. 108 in the series Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice. The research also shows that:

  • while juvenile offenders initially tend to specialise in particular types of crime, as their number of court appearances increases, offenders become more versatile.
  • many offenders tend to move to less serious offences over time.