A new YN Research Report analyses data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) on diversions, court finalisations and youth custody data for young people either residing in Walgett or appearing in court in Walgett, from 2016 to 2021, to see if there are observable changes since YN’s work in this area. 

Analysis by Dr Rebecca Reeve found that there were overall increases in diversions for children and young people in 2019 and 2020 but decreases again in 2021 and also decreased use of Youth Justice Conferencing (YJC) in 2020 and 2021. COVID has had an impact on the use of diversionary options (ie YJCs were suspended during several months in 2020 and 2021) however it is apparent that Walgett police are still taking a punitive approach towards their engagement with children and young people. For example, there were more referrals to YJC from the courts than from police; police in Walgett are issuing more formal cautions than the more informal option of giving warnings; and a lot of non-violent offences (public order offences, property damage and theft) are being finalised in the Children's Court rather than receiving a diversion by police.

And overall, since 2019, an increased proportion of charges have been found not guilty in court or withdrawn, suggesting charges are still proceeding to court that should not be. There were increases in numbers of Walgett children and young people in custody from 2016 to 2019, however those numbers of youth custody episodes have decreased since 2019. While this is a positive shift, the majority of the remaining custody episodes are for Walgett children and young people on remand ie not yet sentenced. These findings highlight that despite some improvements, further work is needed to build on progress and embed systemic change.

Read the Briefing paper here.