EVALUATING THE HOBART
YOUTH JUSTICE COURT:
AN ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE
UNDERTAKING
Victor Stojcevski and Magistrate Catherine
Rhe...
Outline
1.  Background
2.  Main features of the Specialised Youth Justice Court
(SYJC)
3.  Main findings of the Evaluation...
Background
• Recommendation from the Legislative Council Select
Committee Report (2007) on youth justice & detention:
‘Mag...
Background (cont.)
• Pre-2011 situation: 8 Hobart-based magistrates heard
and determined offences by young people in the Y...
Main features of SYJC
• The SYJC consists of two related streams.
1.  A general stream in which all YJ matters triable
sum...
Main features of SYJC (cont.)
• SYJC Model:
1.  designated and relief specialist magistrates
2.  designated prosecutors an...
Developing the Evaluation Plan
• Step 1: Objectives
• better coordinate YJ support services to the court;
• improve timeli...
Developing the Evaluation Plan
(cont.)
• Step 2: Choosing Research Methods
• Step 3: Constructing the Evaluation Plan
• St...
Data-gathering methods
• Method 1: Interviews – professional participants and
offenders
• How and why were individuals cho...
Evaluation – Main Findings
Evaluation found that Pilot model:
1. Demonstrated greater consistency in all decision-
making ...
Evaluation – Main Findings (cont.)
5.  Was not able to achieve overall improvements
in timely finalisation of youth justic...
Problems/Challenges
• “An almost impossible job.”
• “How do you solve a problem like . . . .?”
• Evaluating magistrates/po...
Problems/Challenges (cont.)
• Political climate – focus was on the machinations of the
SYJC. Difficult to reflect creative...
Messages from the Evaluation
• Why do a program evaluation?
• Measure success/failure
• Find what works/does not work and ...
Messages from the Evaluation (cont.)
• Pilot gave participating agencies confidence that the court
now has the potential t...
A Designated Magistrate’s
Perspective
• The word “Specialised” implies that there is some
particular expertise being impor...
• How do we evaluate how effective our specialised
approach is?
• It quickly became apparent that having a court room of
s...
• A comment/observation from a stakeholder highlights the
issue.
“I would rate the youth justice court , in terms of its
i...
• A number of young people agreed to be interviewed for
the purpose of the Evaluation Report.
• Some of the comments are p...
“F felt comfortable with the language of the Court and
thought his sentence was fair. He also felt comfortable
because the...
• If the young person is
• more engaged in the process,
• has a voice
• makes informed decisions
Then hopefully that leads...
Thank you
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Victor Stojcevski, Senior Policy Adviser, Magistrates Court of Tasmania & Magistrate Catherine Rheinberger, Magistrates Court of Tasmania- Evaluating the Hobart Youth Justice Court: An Almost Impossible Undertaking

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Victor Stojcevski & Catherine Rheinberger delivered this presentation at the 5th Annual Juvenile Justice Summit 2014. This Summit hears from key state government representatives and youth justice organisations on the significant issues moving forward for juvenile justice in Australia.

For more information, please visit http://www.communitycareconferences.com.au/juvenilejustice14

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Victor Stojcevski, Senior Policy Adviser, Magistrates Court of Tasmania & Magistrate Catherine Rheinberger, Magistrates Court of Tasmania- Evaluating the Hobart Youth Justice Court: An Almost Impossible Undertaking

  1. 1. EVALUATING THE HOBART YOUTH JUSTICE COURT: AN ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE UNDERTAKING Victor Stojcevski and Magistrate Catherine Rheinberger, Magistrates Court of Tasmania 25 March 2014
  2. 2. Outline 1.  Background 2.  Main features of the Specialised Youth Justice Court (SYJC) 3.  Main findings of the Evaluation of the SYJC 4.  Problems and challenges with an internal evaluation of the SYJC 5.  A designated magistrate’s perspective
  3. 3. Background • Recommendation from the Legislative Council Select Committee Report (2007) on youth justice & detention: ‘Magistrates with a special interest in youth justice be dedicated to the Youth Justice Court’. • SYJC Pilot commenced January 2011. It operated as a specialist list in Hobart, presided over by a designated or ‘specialist’ youth justice magistrate, not as a separate or distinct court.
  4. 4. Background (cont.) • Pre-2011 situation: 8 Hobart-based magistrates heard and determined offences by young people in the Youth Justice Division of the Crt on any given day. • During the Pilot: 1 magistrate does most hearing and sentencing of YJ matters on scheduled days. • No additional funding.
  5. 5. Main features of SYJC • The SYJC consists of two related streams. 1.  A general stream in which all YJ matters triable summarily are listed. 2.  The Pilot also introduced a ‘Special List’ to hear and determine complex matters assessed as needing a therapeutic jurisprudence approach. This List is concerned with vulnerable young offenders, including offenders with AOD and/or MH problems.
  6. 6. Main features of SYJC (cont.) • SYJC Model: 1.  designated and relief specialist magistrates 2.  designated prosecutors and defence counsel 3.  a regular courtroom workgroup consisting of representatives from, at least, Youth Justice Services, Child Protection Services and the Department of Education.
  7. 7. Developing the Evaluation Plan • Step 1: Objectives • better coordinate YJ support services to the court; • improve timeliness and early finalisation of cases with fewer listings before a Magistrate; • encourage more consistency in the court’s decisions; • develop and apply greater expertise; and • increase the collaborative approach between agencies, such as Police Prosecution, Legal Aid, YJS(DHHS) and Education.
  8. 8. Developing the Evaluation Plan (cont.) • Step 2: Choosing Research Methods • Step 3: Constructing the Evaluation Plan • Step 4: Considering the audience – stakeholders, executives, politicians, potential funders, wider audience.
  9. 9. Data-gathering methods • Method 1: Interviews – professional participants and offenders • How and why were individuals chosen • Volunteers • Confidentiality and consent • Method 2: Program Observation • Method 3: Reviewing Court/Agency Documents/Records • Method 4: National (ABS/AIHW) data/commentary
  10. 10. Evaluation – Main Findings Evaluation found that Pilot model: 1. Demonstrated greater consistency in all decision- making (not just sentencing) about young offenders. 2. Harnessed greater psychosocial expertise in youth justice matters, especially with regard to complex cases. 3. Ensured better coordination of agency services. 4. Increased collaborative work among agencies.
  11. 11. Evaluation – Main Findings (cont.) 5.  Was not able to achieve overall improvements in timely finalisation of youth justice matters (perhaps as a direct result of achieving the other 4 objectives). 6.  Offered a more therapeutic response to complex young offenders via the Special List. 7.  Benefitted from the regular courtroom appearance of Child Protection Services when dealing with dually-listed young people.
  12. 12. Problems/Challenges • “An almost impossible job.” • “How do you solve a problem like . . . .?” • Evaluating magistrates/police prosecutors/defence lawyers • Lack of data coordination between courtroom agencies • Lack of human research ethics guidelines when conducting an evaluation • Impartiality when you are evaluating your colleagues/ employer • Lack of resources for undertaking an evaluation
  13. 13. Problems/Challenges (cont.) • Political climate – focus was on the machinations of the SYJC. Difficult to reflect creatively or move beyond the hard data to make connections between the SYJC and the wider context in which it took place.
  14. 14. Messages from the Evaluation • Why do a program evaluation? • Measure success/failure • Find what works/does not work and why • Catalyst for change/Using the evaluation constructively • Modifications in YJC operations – scheduling arrangements, roles of courtroom workgroup, data collection improvements, a charter to oblige/require agencies to work in that model. • Evaluation report is available at http:// www.magistratescourt.tas.gov.au/home/ hobart_specialised_youth_justice_court_pilot
  15. 15. Messages from the Evaluation (cont.) • Pilot gave participating agencies confidence that the court now has the potential to change the offending lifestyles of young people appearing before it and to have a real influence on their long-term wellbeing. • SYJC started in Launceston in February with a Launceston-based magistrate presiding as specialist. Youth Justice Services, Tas Police, Legal Aid, Child Protection Services, the Dept. of Education and Save the Children will provide support in the Launceston court.
  16. 16. A Designated Magistrate’s Perspective • The word “Specialised” implies that there is some particular expertise being imported into the Youth Court. It implies that there is knowledge and perhaps some wisdom that is available when dealing with our youths. • That notion is extremely daunting when confronted with many youths who have complex issues and needs and the court is promoting itself as working towards changing the offending lifestyles of the young people appearing. • How do I as the designated Magistrate meet that challenge and not be regarded as “White Noise” by the young people and the other interested parties.
  17. 17. • How do we evaluate how effective our specialised approach is? • It quickly became apparent that having a court room of stakeholders who all have essentially the same objectives was a powerful resource. The structure provides an incredible opportunity to lead a co ordinated approach to the youths different needs. • Education was given a very high profile by the Deputy Chief Magistrate and I believe it continues to have a high profile in the court but it raises the question is the success or otherwise of the specialised court personality driven?
  18. 18. • A comment/observation from a stakeholder highlights the issue. “I would rate the youth justice court , in terms of its impact in just one year, as nine or ten. Change is just a gradual process… A different magistrate could completely change the hierarchical structure of the Court, It’s the values, philosophies and personalities. Its not working because of the Youth Court. Its working because of the way its being managed.” • To some extent the personality or aptitude for such a position plays a part but working with the objectives and listening to those in the Court room including the young people is crucial to achieving the goals.
  19. 19. • A number of young people agreed to be interviewed for the purpose of the Evaluation Report. • Some of the comments are particularly pertinent: “He felt that the magistrate spoke directly to him and was genuinely concerned with his situation. A also felt that his sentence of a good behaviour bond with no conviction was fair”. “B felt that she understood the court process and the language used in the court. She also believed that having one magistrate was effective as it allowed them to have a greater understanding of her issues.”
  20. 20. “F felt comfortable with the language of the Court and thought his sentence was fair. He also felt comfortable because the magistrate spoke directly to him…F believed that both the magistrate and DoE worker were genuinely concerned with his education.” • There was a general consensus among the young people interviewed that a single magistrate was a better option than a different magistrate each time they appeared. • From a judicial perspective is the specialised court capable of achieving better results for our young people? The answer depends how you access or evaluate what is a “better result”.
  21. 21. • If the young person is • more engaged in the process, • has a voice • makes informed decisions Then hopefully that leads to more confidence in the Court process and hopefully better outcomes for our young people.
  22. 22. Thank you

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