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Youngest criminals likely to re-offend

AAP logoAAP 14/12/2016 Melissa Meehan and Helen Velissaris

Children who enter the Victorian youth justice system before they are 13 are more likely to end up in an adult jail before their 22nd birthday than those first sentenced when they are older.

A report into youth reoffending in Victoria has looked at the crime patterns of 5,385 youngsters over 11 years from 2004 to 2015 and discovered high cases of reoffending for those with prior history.

The Sentencing Advisory Council report found that the younger the child was when first sentenced, the more likely they were to re-offend and to re-offend violently.

That behaviour is also more likely to continue into adulthood, landing many of them in an adult prison before they are 22.

Of the 5,385, 115 children who were sentenced to a community-based order or time in a youth jail, 83 per cent went on to re-offend and 79 per cent spent time in an adult jail.

The report on Thursday also found there had been a steady decline in the number of young people sentenced at the Children's Court.

From 2008/09, 5,385 young people were sentenced, but in 2014/15, the number dramatically reduced to 2,859.

Sentencing Advisory Council chair Arie Freiberg says the study suggests that sentencing alone cannot address the root causes of offending by young people.

"The best way to protect the community is to invest in measures that prevent or interrupt the criminal pathways of children who otherwise go on to commit a disproportionately high volume of youth crime," Professor Freiberg said in a statement.

Victoria's Crime Statistics Agency released a separate report on Thursday that found only 12 per cent of the total 543,315 offences recorded across the state were committed by children under the age of 17.

Police minister Lisa Neville said the government was working with police to turn the youth crime rate around.

She said a "small but serious" group of young offenders was responsible for a large portion of crimes committed by youths in Victoria.

"We've got to come at this at a whole range of levels," she told reporters on Thursday.

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