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Nearly a third of children convicted of dangerous or negligent driving were only handed fines, while the one found guilty of killing someone behind the wheel received an “unsupervised” sentence in the community.
The Daily Telegraph has analysed three years of court sentence data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics, which shows hundreds of young drivers, on their Ps, their Ls or unlicensed, have been lightly penalised for major transgressions on the road.
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It comes after it emerged a 17-year-old accused of causing a catastrophic crash near Newcastle last week was already on a good behaviour bond for crashing a stolen car.
Tamika Wever, a 24-year-old mother of three boys, remains in John Hunter Hospital almost a week after the driver allegedly went through a red light and slammed into the maxi taxi she and fiance Dylan Whitey were taking home from the pub.
The Telegraph revealed the 17-year-old stole and crashed a car on August 2 while he was drunk. He received a 12-month good behaviour bond from the court and a $350 fine.
In the three years to March 2020, 123 drivers between the ages 10 and 17 were convicted of drug driving — 53 of them were fined, 60 were given unsupervised sentences and just one had a supervised sentence.
An unsupervised sentence means a court has slapped a young offender with an order, such as a good behaviour bond, but it’s up to the child to obey the order and police to catch them if they do not.
Under a supervised sentence, Youth Justice staff monitor the child’s compliance.
In the serious category of negligent or dangerous driving, 104 of 340 children convicted got away with fines, 111 received unsupervised sentences and 81 were supervised.
Twenty-three faced the harshest style of penalty, a period in juvenile detention.
There were 17 found guilty of high-range drink driving in the three years – none were sent to juvenile detention and just two had supervised sentences in the community.
Just one juvenile was found guilty of driving causing death and received an unsupervised sentence.
Victims of crime advocate Howard Brown believes magistrates are not given enough information about young offenders before sentencing.
“If the original matter was dealt with more forensically he may not be in the position he now finds him himself in … I don’t think the pre-sentence reports are sufficiently forensic,” Mr Brown said.
For instance, he said a period of supervision by justice officials should be a “bare minimum” if there is no stable guardian but the parental situation is not always clear to magistrates.
“When you get the impression parents don’t give a toss, you know that supervision isn’t going to be there,” he said.
And young offenders had not built up a criminal history before appearing before a children’s court magistrates, Mr Brown said.
“Young people don’t have sufficient antecedence to fall into the aggravating category … that would be a tipping point for a magistrate.”