The political, religious and sectarian dimensions of conflict in Syria have resonated with many young Australians. In this context, over 60 people have been charged with terrorism offences over the last 3 years. The age of offenders has plunged, with many teenagers arrested and remanded in juvenile facilities. Tensions have emerged within the Australian justice system. On the one hand, the increased use of control orders, the introduction of ‘continued detention’ and revisions to bail and parole laws suggests a stern response. On the other, the common law calls for the protection of young offenders, placing a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and non-custodial solutions. This seminar will explore the challenges posed by teenage terrorists to courts, practitioners and the broader community. It will draw on cases litigated by the presenter in the Australian jurisdiction.

Jessie Smith is a barrister and solicitor with conduct of the largest terrorism and national security law practice in Australia. She also holds a sessional academic post at the University of Melbourne, teaching the Masters of International Security. In her legal capacity, Jessie has prepared major terrorism matters before the Supreme Court, Victorian Court of Appeal and special leave applications before the High Court of Australia. Since the commencement of conflict in Syria, she has acted for foreign fighters from a number of armed factions – ISIS, Al Nusra, the PKK and the YPG. Jessie has also acted for a number of accused charged with domestic terrorist activity inspired by the Islamic State. This has included carriage of the first factually contested control order hearing in Australia, and the first child offender to plead guilty to a terrorism offence in the jurisdiction. As a corollary of her work in the substantive criminal law, Jessie has developed a pilot disengagement program for young offenders. She has recently made submissions to government on the feasibility of introducing these programs into remand facilities in Australia.