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|Sentencing of offences committed by children aged under 14 in Queensland||1.6 MB|
Aim: To investigate the sentencing of offences committed by children aged under 14 in Queensland.
Method: Descriptive analysis of cases sentenced in Queensland’s criminal courts between July 2005 and June 2022, where a child was sentenced for an offence committed while aged under 14 years. The analysis focused on understanding the demographics of children sentenced, the types of offences committed, and the sentences imposed.
Results: The analysis identified 7,207 unique children who were sentenced over the 17-year period for offences committed while they were under 14 years of age. It also identified 1,087 unique children who were sentenced for offences committed while under the age of 12. Children under the age of 14 were involved in a total of 19,031 cases, and children under the age of 12 were involved in 2,304 sentenced cases. The sentenced cases for the cohort under 14 years represent 0.7% of all sentenced cases involving adults and children during that time.
These numbers equate to an average of 651 unique children sentenced per year for offences committed while under the age of 14. The numbers were smaller for the younger cohort of children under the age of 12, with a yearly average of 87 unique children.
Two-thirds of the sentenced cases involved offences committed by children aged 13 years. Nearly three-quarters of children sentenced for offences committed while aged 10–13 years were boys and slightly more than half were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, with this percentage increasing where the child committed an offence at a younger age. The proportion of sentenced cases involving girls has increased over time, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls.
Children aged under 14 were much more likely to be sentenced for theft offences such as stealing, shoplifting, and unlawful use of a motor vehicle compared to all adults and children sentenced in Queensland. The offence categories of unlawful entry and property damage were also common for this cohort. The most common offence was unlawful entry of non-dwelling premises. This was the most common offence for children under 14, children under 12 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys. Wilful damage was in the top 5 offences for all demographic groups. Shoplifting was common among girls, both non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls, as well as non-Indigenous boys.
Conclusion: These findings indicate that children sentenced for offences committed while they were under the age of 14 years are a very small proportion of all sentenced cases. Children in this cohort are more likely to be 13 years of age, male and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The profile of offending committed by this cohort is very different to those offences most sentenced for adults. Most commonly the children in this cohort are sentenced for property-related offences. Children under 14 were rarely sentenced to detention and only make up a small percentage of children subject to community-based supervision.