Young people aged 10-14 are a small but important group in youth justice

Despite being a relatively small group, research indicates that young people aged 10-14 in the youth justice system are at risk of becoming chronic, long-term offenders.

In 2010-11, young people aged 10-14 made up about 7% of the Australian population aged 10 and over, and about 5.5% of all those proceeded against by police for alleged involvement in crime. About 20,000 young people aged 10-14 (or 144 per 10,000) were proceeded against by police during the year. There were 1,940 young people aged 10-14 (or 16 per 10,000) under youth justice supervision in 2011-12 (excluding Western Australia and the Northern Territory, because data were not provided). Rates of involvement were substantially lower among young people aged 10-14 than those aged 15-17 throughout the youth justice system.

Most young people supervised at age 10-14 return to supervision at older ages

Longitudinal data show that most (85%) young people in a cohort born in 1993-94 who were supervised at age 10-14 returned to (or continued under) supervision when they were 15-17.

More serious involvement and longer supervision at older ages

Young people who were first supervised when aged 10-14 were more likely than those first supervised at older ages to experience  all types of supervision when 15-17-particularly the most serious type of supervision, sentenced detention (33% compared with 8%).

They also spent more time in total under supervision at older ages. About half (51%) of those who entered supervision aged 10-14 (and later returned) spent 18 months or more in total under supervision when 15-17, compared with only 15% of those first supervised at 15-17.

Indigenous over-representation in youth justice is greatest at younger ages

Indigenous young people aged 10-14 were about 6-10 times as likely as non-Indigenous  young people of the same age to be proceeded against by police during 2010-11 (in the states and territories for which data were available), compared with 3-5 times as likely among those aged 15-17. Nationally, they were 23 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be under community-based supervision during 2011-12 and 25 times as likely to be in detention (excluding Western Australia and the Northern Territory). Again, these were higher than the corresponding rate ratios among young people aged 15-17 (13 and 15 times the non-Indigenous rate in community-based supervision and detention).

Trends show some small increases in supervision rates

Rates of young people who experienced supervision when they were aged 10-14 increased between the 1990-91 and 1996-97 cohorts (from 39 to 43 per 10,000), despite a slight decrease in the most recent cohort. This increase was larger in detention (from 22 to 26 per 10,000) than community-based supervision (from 34 to 36 per 10,000).

A range of interventions are available to reduce reoffending

Research indicates that a range of interventions may help to reduce reoffending among young people. Young people aged 10-14 under supervision in each state and territory may receive a range of programs and services in the community, or in detention. These commonly  target risk factors such as antisocial behaviour, drug and alcohol misuse, mental health issues, education  and training, and relationship issues such as family violence.