This procedure relates to the preparation and distribution of pre-sentence reports for youth justice centre suitability assessments.

 

When to use this procedure

When a magistrate or judge in the adult court jurisdiction is considering sentencing a person aged 18-20 years, to a period of detention in an adult prison.

 

What else you need to know

 

Practice context and legislation

  • In Victoria, a unique dual-track system gives young people aged 18 to 20 years the opportunity to be sentenced to a youth justice precinct.
  • This reflects the aims of youth justice in Victoria: to minimise the involvement of young people in the youth justice and adult correctional systems; to maximise the young person’s prospects for rehabilitation; to facilitate reintegration into society; and to minimise community risk.
  • When a court in the adult jurisdiction is considering sentencing a young person to adult prison, they must order a youth justice centre suitability assessment to be prepared by youth justice.
  • As per s. 32 of the Sentencing Act 1991, youth justice may assess a young person suitable to serve a custodial sentence in a youth justice centre where the assessment indicates that: it is deemed there are reasonable prospects for the rehabilitation of the young person; or where the young person is particularly impressionable, immature or likely to be subjected to undesirable influences in an adult prison.
  • This assessment is conducted with reference to the 'Youth justice centre suitability assessment tool', contained in the Youth justice court advice service guidelines.
  • The adverse effects of adult prison and the importance of diverting young people from progressing further into the criminal justice system make it appropriate to consider alternatives to adult prison in certain circumstances.
 

Roles and key tasks

Youth justice court advice worker, or worker providing court advice

  • Obtain all request documentation from the court, clarify if brief or detailed assessment required.
  • Complete assessment using the 'Youth justice centre suitability assessment tool'.
  • Consult with youth justice centre staff, line management and Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor.

Team leader / team manager

  • Provide consultation and endorse assessment and recommendation prepared by youth justice court advice service worker.

Youth Justice Centre Operations Manager

  • Consult with youth justice court advice service worker, or their delegate, and provide input into the suitability assessment with reference to the 'Youth justice centre suitability assessment tool'.

Assistant Director/ Manager Individual and Family Support

  • Provide consultation on suitability recommendation.
  • Provide oversight, direction and monitoring of the area youth justice program.
  • Provide case consultation for young people exhibiting high-risk behaviours.

Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor

Provide consultation on suitability recommendation. 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

Request for youth justice centre suitability assessment, pre-sentence report

A youth justice centre suitability assessment is contained in legislation as a pre-sentence report.

A request for a youth justice centre suitability assessment indicates that the court is considering imposing a youth justice centre order.

Make the request for a youth justice centre suitability assessment in writing. A verbal request is sufficient to provide the mandate to complete the assessment, but a written request for the assessment should be obtained from the court.

The request from the court should detail whether a brief or detailed assessment is required. If the length of the report is not specified by the court youth justice should seek clarification.

Format of the pre-sentence report

The Client Relationship Information System (CRIS) provides two templates for the completion of youth justice centre suitability reports, these are:

  • pre-sentence suitability for youth justice report (detailed)
  • pre-sentence suitability for youth justice order (brief).

The brief report may be requested by the court when the assessment is required in a short timeframe.

Guidelines for assessment for the pre-sentence report

To complete the youth justice centre suitability assessment:

  • obtain the police summary and proven charges
  • make contact with the young person, preferably in person
  • where possible, make contact with the young person’s family and other significant people
  • seek access to all court-ordered reports and assessments by contacting the young person's legal representative
  • see procedure on pre-sentence reports.

The assessment must address ss. 32(1)(a) and (1)(b) and should consider s. 96(2) of the Sentencing Act 1991. The report may refer to all or any of the matters set out in s. 97 of the Sentencing Act 1991.

The Youth justice court advice guidelines include an assessment tool that provides a list of indications and contraindications of suitability.

All assessments must include reference to the legislative basis and youth justice assessment guidelines.

Consult with both line management and the youth justice senior practice advisor before presenting a decision about suitability to the court.

Preparation of a pre-sentence report

For further information on preparation of influential pre-sentence reports see the following practice instructions:

  • Presentence reports
  • Engaging with young people
  • Report writing – writing an influential report

Young people held on remand

If a young person has been remanded in custody for the completion of the youth justice centre suitability assessment, the youth justice worker must meet with the young person in custody to undertake the assessment.

Consultation with youth justice precinct

As part of information gathering for the youth justice centre suitability assessment, make contact with youth justice precinct staff to discuss the suitability of the young person a youth justice centre order.

Refer to the Youth justice court advice guidelines for more information.

In the report, specify that consultation has occurred and that the youth justice precinct supports the assessment and recommendation.

Liaising with child protection

Where it is known that a young person is a dual-order client, youth justice must consult with child protection before making a recommendation to the court.

Information should be discussed during preparation of court reports for consistent content from both programs as all departmental staff are delegates of the Secretary and are required to present an agreed position in court. Refer to the Protocol between child protection and youth justice for more information

Recommending alternative dispositions

When preparing a youth justice centre suitability assessment, it may be reasonable to suggest the court consider an alternative sentencing disposition, such as a community corrections order. Refer to the Youth justice court advice guidelines for more information

Combined youth justice and community corrections service assessments

The court may request both a youth justice centre suitability assessment and community corrections order assessment.

In this instance, it may be appropriate for youth justice to complete a joint assessment with the community corrections service worker. This should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

When a joint assessment is completed, individual reports must be submitted to the court. Refer to the Youth justice court advice guidelines for more information

Distribution of pre-sentence report

The completed youth justice centre suitability assessment must be printed on Department of Human Services letterhead and filed with the court no later than the time directed by the court.

A copy of the report must be provided to the prosecutor, young person’s legal representative and the young person, as specified by the court and a copy retained for the youth justice CRIS file.

Disputed pre-sentence report

The prosecution or defence may file a notice with the court indicating an intention to dispute the whole, or part of, the suitability report.

When this occurs, the court does not take account of the disputed part of the report until an opportunity has been given to cross-examine the author of the report.

Refer to the Youth justice court advice guidelines for more information

Court advice

As far as practicable the author of the youth justice centre suitability assessment report should be available to attend court to support the assessment.

If this is not possible, arrangements must be made for another youth justice worker to attend on the author’s behalf.