Following community outcry after the deaths of Kate Leadbetter and Matthew Field, who were allegedly killed by a teen driver, the Queensland Government has announced tough new action targeted towards repeat youth offenders.

A joint statement delivered on Tuesday by Queensland Premier and Minister for Trade, Annastacia Palaszczuk, Attorney-General and Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, The Honourable Shannon Fentiman, Minister for Police and Corrective Services and Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, The Honourable Mark Ryan, and Minister for Children and Youth Justice and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, The Honourable Leanne Linard, said:

“The State Government will move immediately to further crackdown on juvenile crime. The new measures will target hardcore youth criminals who repeatedly offend and put the community at risk.”

The proposed changes will see courts receive a number of additional powers, outlined below:

  • Require fitting of electronic monitoring devices (GPS trackers) as a condition of bail for recidivist high risk offenders aged 16 and 17.
  • Create a presumption against bail for youth offenders arrested for committing further serious indictable offences (such as breaking and entering, serious sexual assault, and armed robbery) while on bail.
  • Seek assurances from parents and guardians that bail conditions will be complied with before an offender is released.
  • Strengthen existing bail laws to provide further guidance to the courts. The Youth Justice Act will be amended to include a reference to the community being protected from recidivist youth offenders in the Charter of Youth Justice Principles.

In addition to increased court powers, police will be given metal detecting wands to target knife crime on the Gold Coast; anti-hooning laws will be strengthened to hold the registered owner of a vehicle responsible except where the vehicle is stole or the owner can identify another driver; and a parliamentary inquiry will examine the implementation of remote engine immobilisers.

The government will also enshrine in legislation the existing common law principle that offending whilst on bail is an aggravating circumstance when the court is imposing a sentence.

Assistant Police Commissioner Cheryl Scanlon, Queensland’s former Security and Counter Terrorism Command will lead a Youth Crime Taskforce to implement the new measures.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the loss of four innocent lives linked to a series of recent crimes would not go unanswered.

“It is clear to me and to the community that some young offenders simply don’t care about the consequences,” she said.

The Premier also announced that former Commissioner Bob Atkinson will report on the efficacy of the measures in six months.

Police Minister, Mark Ryan, said young offenders needed to learn the consequences of their actions.

“This is about targeting the hardcore repeat offenders – those 10 per cent of youth offenders who are frequently putting the community at risk,” he said.

“We must stop young hardcore offenders being let out on bail and re-offending the next day. That is why we are making these changes to bail laws.”

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said it is anticipated the changes will be introduced at this month’s sittings of State Parliament.

The full media release can be viewed here.

Following the announcement, a number of concerns have been raised about the effectiveness of the Government’s response.

Debbie Kilroy CEO of Sisters Inside – a community organisation advocating for the rights of women in the criminal justice system – expressed concern about the entire approach, noting the disproportionate number of First Nations children targeted by the justice system.

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties voiced their concern about the efficacy of proposed ankle bracelets.

Greens MP for Maiwar, Michael Berkman, also expressed concern that the State Government’s approach was not the most effective to reduce crime.

More to come.

Feature image: LightField Studios/Shutterstock