27 Mar 2017

The recent shocking leaked news that a 12 year old boy was accused of sexually assaulting a 9 year boy  in Mandurah left parents at the affected school angry they had not been advised about what was going and said it felt like a ‘cover-up’.

The reality is that in WA publication of juveniles’ names in relation to criminal proceedings – as either; offenders, victims or witnesses is prohibited by law. 

The rationale for protecting the identity of juvenile offenders is primarily about the impact ‘naming and shaming’ has on young offenders’ rehabilitation prospects.  Other reasons for maintaining privacy include the detrimental effects that publication would have on a young offender’s siblings and extended family and the potential to identify child victims. 

In an age of prolific social media the stigma associated with criminal charges or even allegations of criminal behaviour will be intense and very long lasting – if not permanent.

It is scientifically recognised that a juveniles are more likely to have lower levels of impulse control give the stage of their brains’ development, and that they have significantly less ability than adults to foresee the consequences of their actions.  This means that publicly shaming children convicted of crimes is unlikely to act as a deterrent to either the named offender or would-be juvenile offenders.

The stigma of being widely known to be a criminal is also believed to increase recidivism among juveniles.  Where young offenders accept as part of their self identity they are ‘criminal’, ‘deviant’ or ‘delinquent’ it increases their  bonds with criminal subcultures which in turn increases the likelihood of re-offending.   

It is of course important that children accept responsibility for their criminal actions and the harm they have caused, and it is right they should experience shame.  However studies show that shame can be directed at promoting rehabilitation and can be harnessed in a way that assists the child to make a positive contribution to society for the rest of their lives.  A practice known as ‘re-integrative shaming’ is part of many juvenile rehabilitation programs.

While parents at the affected school in Mandurah are right to seek to protect their children from harm – shunning or shaming the offender or the victim will not achieve that aim.  Naming and shaming children is unlawful because it is harmful to society as a whole when juveniles are denied the opportunity to rehabilitate and recover from their involvement as either offenders or victims of crime.

This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.

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