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NT youth justice is broken: Acting Chief

AAP logoAAP 12/01/2017 Lucy Hughes Jones

The acting Northern Territory chief minister admits the juvenile justice system is broken, but won't reveal what diversionary programs the government has up its sleeve to combat youth crime.

Hundreds of NT children could join a class action launched by former Don Dale detainees over alleged abuse in youth detention centres over the past decade that could cost the government and taxpayers millions.

The lawsuit involves allegations of physical and psychological mistreatment by guards, including the use of tear gas as recently as last April.

It comes amid a spike in property offences by youngsters who are often repeat offenders and reports of a drop in the number of teen criminals in detention.

"The system we've got in place at the moment is not working," Acting NT Chief Minister Nicole Manison said.

Ms Manison assured any judges worried about the safety of a child being sentenced to Don Dale that the government has stepped up operational improvements and committed to replacing the facility itself.

"We all know that Don Dale is absolutely under the microscope," she said.

"We want to make sure (kids) come out rehabilitated and less likely to reoffend."

But Ms Manison wouldn't detail any tangible alternative sentencing options for judges in the government's youth justice reform plans.

"We want to ensure victims have more of a voice... and that offenders get a far greater understanding of the impact of their crimes," she said.

Ms Manison said there's typically a rise in youth crime during the summer school holidays, and police will ramp up a special task force to tackle recidivism and disengagement.

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