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Government announces changes to youth justice

The Queensland Government today announced changes to the state’s youth justice laws.

A joint announcement by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Minister for Police and Corrective Services Mark Ryan and Minister for Children and Youth Justice Leanne Linard came in the wake of community outrage at the murder of a North Lakes mother on Boxing Day, allegedly at the hands of juvenile offenders.

Ms Palaszczuk said the community had been heard. “My government is listening and we are acting,” she said.

Among the new measures are:

  1. an increase in the maximum penalty for stealing a car from seven to 10 years’ imprisonment
  2. a more severe penalty of 14 years if the offence is committed at night, where the offender uses violence or threatens violence, is armed or pretends to be armed, is in company or damages or threatens to damage any property
  3. amendment of the Youth Justice Act requiring courts to take into account previous bail history, criminal activity and track record when sentencing
  4. increased penalties for criminals who have boasted about their crimes on social media
  5. extreme high visibility police patrols
  6. a $9.89 million fast-track sentencing program in Brisbane, Townsville, Southport and Cairns so children spend less time on remand and more time serving their sentences
  7. the construction of two new youth detention centres
  8. a trial of engine immobilisers in Mt Isa, Cairns and Townsville
  9. the appointment within the Queensland Police Service of Assistant Commissioner to the position of Youth Crime Taskforce Commander.

The increased penalties apply to adult as well as juvenile offenders.

A State Government statement says that young offenders will be in custody for longer to make sure they can complete requisite rehabilitation and reform programs set out by the courts.

To help prevent car theft in the first place, $10 million will be provided to supply 20,000 engine immobilisers to be trialed in Mt Isa, Cairns and Townsville.

Legislative changes will be introduced in the new year.

The Premier said it was one of the most comprehensive packages ever seen in Queensland.

“Crime, especially youth crime, is a complex issue but community safety must come first,” she said. “All of the programs to divert children away from crime will continue but the community is demanding tougher penalties too.”

Police Minister Mark Ryan said the initiatives were evidence based and would have an impact.

“Tougher penalties, elevated surveillance and a concentrated ‘extreme’ police visibility in strategic locations at certain times will help disrupt the illegal activities of those who wish to do harm to the community,” he said.

“Targeted programs will be rolled out in key locations, including the establishment of a Street University in Townsville and funding for a Safer Streets Program and Midnight Basketball in Cairns.

“We will never stop looking for innovative new ways to target wrongdoers and support the community.”

Minister for Children and Youth Justice Leanne Linard said more than two dozen programs to divert children away from crime would continue.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” she said. “The total number of cases where a young person has been refused bail at their first appearance has risen from 377 in 2017-18 to 585 in 2021-22.

“The community must be kept safe.”

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