Overdue reforms targeting repeat juvenile offenders have been introduced to Parliament as part of the Newman Government’s commitment to overhauling the youth justice system.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie said the Government was getting the balance right in dealing with Queensland’s youth crime problem.
“These reforms are tough, but fair and necessary,” Mr Bleijie said.
“We are cracking down on dangerous, repeat young offenders but also helping at-risk young people find a better path in life.
“Our reforms are aimed at arresting and fixing the damage done by years of mismanagement and slaps on the wrist from the former Labor Government.
“The number and seriousness of offences committed by young people have been growing at an alarming rate for years.
“In just the last financial year, the number of cases dealt with in the Children’s Court rose by more than 10 percent and the number of offences increased by more than 20 per cent.
“We now worryingly have a cohort of young offenders who have become hardened criminals before they’re even old enough to get their L plates and that’s why we have had to act.
“Under these reforms, the identities of repeat offenders will be allowed to be published by the media, making them more accountable for their actions and setting a strong deterrent for further offending.
“Publishing the identities of first time offenders will continue to be prohibited and the Court will have the discretion to close certain proceedings.
“This will send a strong message to repeat offenders and provide the public with a better understanding of the Children’s Court’s processes.”
Mr Bleijie said a new offence for breaching bail would also be created.
“When people are released on bail, they make a promise to the court to abide by their conditions and obey the law,” he said.
“A specific breach of bail offence targets the repeat offenders and makes them accountable for breaking that promise by facing a maximum one year in detention.”
Other reforms include:
•Making all juvenile criminal histories available in adult courts to give a Magistrate or Judge a complete understanding of a defendant’s history
•Removing detention as a last resort to give the court more discretion during sentencing
•Transferring juvenile offenders to adult correctional centres when they reach 17 years of age if they have six or more months of their sentence remaining.
“Many of these reforms specifically target repeat offenders, not kids who make a silly mistake and learn from it,” Mr Bleijie said.
“They also build upon the success of the Government’s boot camp trial, which was recently described as a ‘welcome innovation’ by President of the Children’s Court, Justice Michael Shanahan.
“We now have early intervention camps running on the Gold Coast, Fraser/Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton and a sentenced boot camp servicing the Townsville/Cairns region.
“Participants are taught discipline and self-respect. The camps also include programs that will help them continue their education or get a job and parents and teachers have noticed dramatic changes in their behaviour.
“With the success of the boot camp trial, the Government will request the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee consider a proposal to introduce a mandatory boot camp order for repeat car thieves in the Townsville region.
“Areas such as Townsville are in the grip of a car theft crime wave with scores of vehicles stolen almost weekly by young people. Getting them off the streets and away from bad influences could help them realise there’s more to life than a revolving door of detention.
“These reforms also follow an extensive public consultation process, including our Safer Streets Crime Action Plan survey.
“Our proposals were overwhelmingly supported by more than 4,000 respondents, who were mostly victims of crime, and further consultation will be undertaken during the committee process.
“We have also implemented new laws that force graffiti vandals to clean up their mess, allow the crushing and indefinite seizure of hoons’ cars and increase penalties for assaulting and evading police.
“A thorough review of all aspects of the youth justice system is also underway and a Blueprint will be released in the coming months.”