A proposed Queensland LNP policy plan to automatically sentence youths to prison after a third offence and set up hard-labour farms for young offenders has been slammed as extreme and unworkable.
Opposition leader Deb Frecklington yesterday announced that, if elected, the LNP would make amendments to the Youth Justice Act to force the courts to sentence a youth to detention if convicted of a third offence.
The part has also unveiled plans for a trial of five “community payback farms” across the state where young offenders would be sent to “learn new skills, improving self-discipline and be taught to take ownership of their actions”.
But a Gold Coast lawyer says this all smacks of Western Australia’s three-strike laws, which especially impact on First Nation youths, and he is strongly opposed to judges losing their sentencing discretion.
Parker Simmonds Solicitors and Lawyers Litigation Director Bruce Simmonds said the issue was wider than just laws to deal with repeat and prolific young offenders.
He recently voiced concerns at amendments to the youth justice laws, which the State Government spruiked as simplifying and strengthening youth bail laws.
Now a child “must”– instead of “may” – be kept in custody if an unacceptable risk to the safety or welfare of a person, or if there is unacceptable risk to community safety.
Mr Simmonds said the proposed LNP plans effectively removed the discretion of the judge as to how a youth offender should be dealt with.
“Discretion should always be with the judge after a review of a social worker’s report,” he said.