Interviewing young offenders

The Department of Attorney General and Justice – Juvenile Justice interviewed young offenders who came into custody for breach of bail. The aim was to understand the factors that affect a young person’s ability to comply with their bail conditions.

The project was carried out internally for the purpose of improved service delivery, and so no ethical approval was sought. Young offenders were interviewed at a Children’s Court.

The participants were:

    • given an explanation of the study in plain English
    • told that they were free to ask questions before and during the interview, and that they did not have to answer any questions they did not want to
    • told that there would be no adverse impacts from declining or discontinuing their involvement in the study
    • given a significant amount of time to ensure they were aware of the consent and confidentiality conditions that accompanied the study
    • told that all information they gave would not be disclosed to anyone unless there was indication of risk to them or others, and that results would be displayed at aggregate level with no identifying details
    • offered no remuneration or incentive for their participation.

The young people were asked for witnessed verbal consent as they were unable to sign due to being interviewed in a non-contact setting1.

The participants were also given an information sheet outlining all the information discussed with them and providing contact details of the researchers.

The project provided a greater understanding of the factors impacting on a young person’s compliance with their bail conditions. While the court location was appropriate for participant recruitment, a less restrictive setting may have improved rapport with the young people and subsequent responses.

1 A non-contact setting is a purpose built cubicle where the young person sits on one side of glass and the visitor on the other. This was not done due to any safety reasons, but to ensure the interviews were as least onerous on Juvenile Justice Court Staff as possible. In a contact setting (normal room with table and chairs) a staff member would be required to be in the room. With a non-contact setting the staff member can be monitoring a number of interviews at once. From an ethical point of view, in a non-contact setting the young person is able to freely disclose information to the interviewer without concerns of the staff hearing.