An independent review of Queensland’s youth justice bail laws has found children are being detained in greater numbers and for longer periods of time since they were introduced.
The Queensland Government last night (15 Nov) released the ‘Youth Justice Reforms Review’ report – which was authored by a team headed by former Queensland Police Commissioner and 2018’s ‘Youth Justice Reform Review’ chief Bob Atkinson AO APM.
The 158-page report found changes to bail laws were contributing to more children being detained on remand.
The report comes more than 12 months after the scheduled review of a myriad Youth Justice Act 1992 amendments passed in February last year.
The new laws came in the wake of ongoing media coverage and public debate surrounding the deaths of several people as a result of allegedly recidivist youth offenders driving stolen vehicles.
A review of the changes was expected within six months of the laws being implemented in April 2021 and was delivered to the government almost eight months ago, but was released publicly yesterday.
Youth Justice Minister Leanne Linard last night released a statement saying the report proved bail laws introduced early last year were “working” to reduce youth crime in Queensland.
“We have put community safety first since we came into government and when Queenslanders said they wanted more done, we did more,” Ms Linard said.
“When we made amendments to the Youth Justice Act last year, we were determined to make the small number of serious repeat offenders more accountable for their behaviour.”
Mr Atkinson – who was quoted in Ms Linard’s media statement – said his team’s report reviewed the status of the eight legislated changes and nine policy initiatives six months after they were introduced.
“During the course of the review we interviewed key stakeholders to get a better understanding of the effectiveness of the Government’s youth justice reforms and the continual monitoring of these reforms,” Mr Atkinson said.
“The key take away was that the reforms were worthwhile and should be continued.”
The review’s key findings include:
Electronic GPS monitoring of youth offenders as a condition of bail
- Electronic monitoring trial was assessed as well implemented. While the trial has had a low uptake, this is in part due to the show cause initiative targeting the same offences. While there were some suggestions for expanding the application or changing the eligible cohort for electronic monitoring, the report cautioned against making any change without a comprehensive impact evaluation and further investigation of its application in other jurisdictions.
Presumption against bail (show cause)
- As intended by the legislation, the report found that, as of 31 October 2021, the show cause provisions appear to be contributing to an increase in remand in custody rates. Compared to previous years, there was an increase in the number of distinct young people remanded in custody, an increase in the average duration in custody and an increase in the average daily number of young people in custody.
The community should be protected from serious, recidivist offenders
- Survey data reveals overall moderate levels of confidence in this reform. Some respondents felt that with more high-risk offenders being remanded in custody, improvements to bail monitoring and increased compliance with bail conditions, there is a growing improvement in perceptions of safety in communities.
Offending on bail is an aggravating factor in sentencing
- Almost 40% of survey respondents from service delivery agencies and advocacy organisations thought that considering offending on bail in sentencing was an effective measure to reduce serious, repeat offending, with more favourable views being expressed by Queensland Police Service respondents.
Inability to remand in custody because of inadequate accommodation or family support
- The legislative amendment, while being supported in principle and noted as important to underscore in legislation, was perceived as having little real impact on the circumstances of young people and their likelihood of being granted bail. This was attributed to there being significant issues associated with the accessibility of suitable accommodation, and the perception that the provision was being made redundant in some cases due to curfew conditions being imposed.
Hooning – owner deeming provisions
- The reforms appear to have been implemented well, with some opportunities to improve operational police knowledge of the range of legislative powers available. There was a 12% decrease overall in hooning offences.
Metal detection wands
- The trial has been well implemented with moderate to high levels of stakeholder and community support. Knife crime has reduced in the trial locations – by 17% in Surfers Paradise and 23% in Broadbeach; however other Gold Coast police divisions also reported decreases in knife crime, possibly due to a broader education campaign. A planned 12-month evaluation by Griffith University will inform future decisions about the continuation or expansion of this initiative.