This procedure covers media attention involving young people who are, or have previously been, involved with youth justice.

 

When to use this procedure

When a current or previous young person involved with youth justice is subject to media attention.

 

What else you need to know

Make sure you have read and understood the following procedures:

 

Practice context and legislation

  • Given the high-level scrutiny and media profile of law and order issues, young people involved with youth justice may be featured in the media.
  • The media may request information about young people who are:
    • subject to court proceedings
    • on orders supervised by youth justice
    • previously involved with youth justice
    • prepared to appear in a media story
    • participating in a promotional activity or educational campaign.
  • Media attention includes:
  • news about a specific youth justice young person
  • news about a particular agency or program
  • general interest stories and community education.
  • Young people may initially enjoy the attention involved in experiences with the media and other publicity activities, but there can also be negative consequences.
  • The potential exists for publicly identified youth justice young people to be affected by:
    • an intrusion into their personal affairs and that of their family
    • being labelled as an offender
    • embarrassment and/or resentment when confronted with the publicity
    • exposure to possible threats of violence.
  • Offending behaviours of young people are often related to adolescent risk-taking behaviour and/or maturity levels, rather than an indication of long-term criminal tendencies.
  • Requests from the media for information about a young person or aspects of the youth justice program must be referred to the Department of Human Services Media Unit.
  • Confidentiality for young people is governed by s. 534 of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005, which recognises the vulnerability of young people by limiting unnecessary public intrusion into their personal affairs and protecting them from the negative impact of stigmatisation.
  • Anonymity and confidentiality for children and young people is important to allow them an opportunity to change their behaviour and reintegrate with the community without stigma or risk of retribution.
 

Roles and key tasks

Youth justice case manager

  • Inform the team leader and/or team manager of the circumstances and details when media interest and exposure has occurred.

Team leader/ unit manager

  • Prepare a summary of case details to be forwarded by email to the Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support.

Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support

  • Provide details of the young person subject to media attention to line management.

Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor

  • Provide case consultation about court recommendations, breaches and young people exhibiting high-risk behaviours. This should occur subject to local area agreements between Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support and the Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor.
 

The procedure in detail

Enquiries generated by the media

If youth justice is contacted by the media about a current or previous young person:

  • do not provide identifying information about the young person
  • refer the caller to the Media Unit at central office
  • immediately inform your team leader and team manager.

The team manager will advise the Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support of the details of the request.

Situations that may lead to media interest and coverage

Be aware of any situation concerning a young person that may lead to media interest or coverage.

This includes situations where:

  • the young person and/or their family disclose that they intend to go to the media concerning youth justice
  • there is significant community, local or media interest in the offence, or other issue
  • alleged or proven serious criminal offences
  • high-profile court cases
  • an incident has occurred involving a young person on temporary leave or parole release from a youth justice centre.

Consult with the team leader and/or the team manager regarding preparation of a summary of case detail.

Youth justice response

Youth justice workers may on occasions be exposed to situations where there is media interest, for example at court.

If this occurs:

  • be professional
  • be mindful of conversations, as members of the media may be present and overhear information
  • support the young person and their family to behave appropriately
  • assist the young person and the family to minimise exposure.

Inform the team leader or team manager of the circumstances and details when media interest and exposure has occurred.

Confirmed media interest

In the event of confirmed media interest:

  • advise the Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support via the team leader / team manager
  • the YJSPA is consulted via the team leader or team manager
  • the area/division consults with the Assistant Director of the Youth Justice and Disability Forensic Unit to determine a coordinated response
  • the area/division contacts the Media Unit
  • the area/division and the Youth Justice and Disability Forensic Unit liaise with the Media Unit about further developments.

Media attention

If a youth justice young person is subject to media attention and youth justice did not known of this beforehand:

  • inform your team leader and team manager
  • discuss with them whether a summary of case detail is required
  • contact the young person to assess the impact of the media attention
  • talk to the young person about the possible implications of the publicity
  • if the information is printed in a newspaper, place a copy of the article on the young person’s paper file
  • if the information criticises the department or has the potential to involve the Minister see instructions below.

Criticism of the department

Where information about a young person’s involvement with the youth justice service appears in the media and the content has potential to expose the department to criticism:

  • inform the team leader or team manager
  • prepare a summary of case details to be forwarded by email to the Assistant Director / Manager, Individual and Family Support.
  • follow critical incident guidelines.

Identification of a youth justice young person

Section 534 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 restricts publication of proceedings in a children's court that could lead to the identification of a young person without permission of the President of the children's court. Permission from the President of the children's court is required to publish or report proceedings conducted in a children's court, or refer to any persons involved in those proceedings.

The Department of Human Services can request the Chief Commissioner of Police to investigate a media breach.

Potential to involve the minister

If a young person involved with youth justice appears in the media and this has the potential to involve the Minister or produce a high level of public or legal scrutiny, report this as a category one incident.

Refer to the procedure for 'Critical incident management' for more information.

Young people subject to dual orders

If child protection has current or previous involvement with a young person involved with youth justice the following applies:

  • Do not provide identifying information to the media.
  • The young person must not be identified as being subject to that order.
  • Child protection will consult with the young person’s parents regarding any media attention.

Surveys and research interviews

All requests by surveyors/researchers to speak to youth justice staff or young people involved with youth justice should be directed to Department of Human Services’ Centre for Human Services Research and Evaluation on chsre@dhs.vic.gov.au (External link).

Young people may be able to engage in surveys and research if they have given informed consent.

Considerations for public exposure

Before any decision is made about media or public exposure that could identify a young person as being involved with youth justice, the overriding considerations must be:

  • the best interests of the young person
  • the value of such exposure
  • the young person’s understanding of the possible effects of publicity
  • the young person’s ability to make an informed decision about participation
  • whether the young person is subject to a child protection order.

Approved publicity

The following must occur for a young person to appear in any media story, promotional activity or educational campaign that could identify them as being involved with youth justice:

  • Consult with the department's Media Unit.
  • Consult with line management.
  • Seek approval from the Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support for any media exposure or publicity of a young person involved with youth justice.
  • Talk to the young person about the possible implications of participation in the proposed publicity.
  • Obtain written, informed consent from the young person.
  • Prepare a summary of details relating to the request and recommendations.

Note: These procedures apply if a community service organisation makes an application for a young person to be involved in a promotional activity or arts project that might be publicly displayed.

Media appearance by a young person

If approval for a young person to appear in any media story, promotional activity or educational campaign has been endorsed, the following precautions should be taken to minimise recognition or identification of the young person:

  • use only the young person’s first name
  • photographs or film should not show an identifiable image of the young person’s face
  • lighting darkened
  • identifying features kept indistinct.

Where the circumstances in s. 534 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 apply, then no identifying information at all is to be provided unless the permission of the President of the children's court has been obtained.

Casual recognisable publicity

The Secretary's approval to allow identification is not required if the publicity is a community event or something that is significant as an achievement and the young person is not identified as being involved with youth justice.

Young people may be involved in casual recognisable publicity that does not identify their status, for example, school photographs.

Identification of young people involved with child protection

Unless special circumstances exist and the approval of the Secretary (or delegate) has been granted, the Department of Human Services or community service organisations may not use photos or information about young people subject to Custody to Secretary and Guardianship to Secretary orders which are likely to lead to the young person’s identification as being subject to a children's court order.

 

Additional information