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Children’s Rights and Criminal Justice in the Digital Age

Children’s Rights and Criminal Justice in the Digital Age by Dr. Wendy O’Brien, Deakin Criminology.

This workshop will be held online from 12-1pm on 15th July.

The digital era has generated profound changes in the speed, mode, and reach of human communications. In the face of this rapid change, the normative and legal frameworks that govern the limits of acceptable human behaviour have struggled to keep pace. From sexting to a range of online terrorist offences, children are now criminalised for an array of practices that have emerged, burgeoned, or substantially changed form in the digital age. In a further challenge, the longstanding tenets of criminal justice procedure, such as open justice, take on new meaning in the digital era, as the viral reach of social media means that the public identification of a young offender, or the live-streaming of a sentencing hearing, imposes stigma that is immediate, global, and lifelong.

Examining relevant legislation, public policy, criminal case law, and media coverage, the presentation explores the impacts that digital technologies have wrought on the administration of youth justice in several comparable international jurisdictions (the United States, Australia, and England and Wales). Aspects of specific focus include the legal and moral complexities of criminalising children for emergent crimes; balancing children’s rights to participation, protection, and privacy; ensuring strengthened and digitally relevant legal safeguards and due process mechanisms; and implementing comprehensive education strategies to ensure that children are educated about the moral and legal implications of their activities in the hybrid online/offline world.

Ensuring a digitally relevant agenda for youth justice that upholds children’s rights demands careful attention to the fundamental human rights concepts of non-discrimination, equal human dignity, and privacy – and their complex interplay in the digital age. Wendy’s presentation concludes by looking ahead to new agendas for research, advocacy, education, and law reform, in pursuit of digitally relevant access to justice for children.