The Queensland Government today provided details of proposed “new tough laws” to address spiralling youth crime.
The measures include making it harder for serious repeat offenders to secure bail pending resolution of unproven charges.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and senior Government Ministers this afternoon released a statement saying that proposed youth justice reforms would prevent serious repeat offenders being granted bail by the court and greater public expenditure to tackle the “complex causes of youth crime”.
“The tough new laws and increased investment follows careful consideration by the Palaszczuk Government and are based in evidence and follow feedback from the community, police and other stakeholders,” the statement said.
“The new investment of $332 million will also help boost police resources, tackle the complex causes of youth crime and support community safety.
“That includes a significant funding boost for the Queensland Police Service, including a new $25 million injection for high-visibility police patrols and $17 million for expanded joint flying squads.”
Youth justice continues to be one of the most publicly debated topics as the Government attempts to respond to a series of recent high-profile youth crimes.
Ms Palaszczuk announced a number of law changes on 29 December in response to reported community outrage over the stabbing death of a Brisbane mother and a so-called spike in youth crime.
The proposed changes have been the subject of significant public debate and criticism by youth justice stakeholders and advocacy groups, including Queensland Law Society.
QLS President Chloé Kopilović recently said the Government’s “stronger laws for community safety” campaign would only serve to fail Queenslanders and create more community harm.
“Locking up children will not stop crime,” she said. “It has been proven that after a child’s first interaction with the youth justice system they are more likely to re-offend. Further to this, the longer a child spends in custody, the more likely they are to be pipelined into the adult criminal justice system. And this is no place for them to be.
“Every Queenslander deserves the right to feel safe in their homes and within their communities, but the Society fears the Government’s ‘stronger laws for community safety’ campaign will only serve to fail Queenslanders and create more community harm.”
In late January, a collective of respected community groups and leaders resorted to buying a full-page weekend newspaper advertisement to communicate their ‘get smarter – not tougher’ solutions to Queensland’s youth crisis.
More than 40 organisations and 20 prominent Queenslanders threw their support behind a paid ‘open letter’ addressed to the Queensland Government urging it to consider “evidence-based solutions to youth crime that actually work”.
Despite the criticism, Ms Palaszczuk, Police and Corrective Services Minister Mark Ryan and Children and Youth Justice Minister Leanne Linard this afternoon released details of the Government’s raft of reform measures.
According to the joint statement, they include:
“1. Targeting serious repeat offenders
The vast majority of young people who come into contact with the Youth Justice System do not offend again following diversionary and rehabilitation programs.
For the 17% of young offenders who are committing 50% of crimes, more measures will be put in place.
Further significant action to target these serious repeat offenders posing a threat to community safety include:
- Breach of bail: For the first time this century, breaching bail conditions for young offenders will be an offence in Queensland.
- Strengthening conditional release orders: Extending the maximum period from three months to six months. Repeat offenders will also serve their suspended term in detention if they breach a condition. This will help maximise the opportunity for offenders to complete rehabilitation programs.
- New declaration of serious repeat offenders: The Youth Justice Act will be amended to declare certain offenders as ‘serious repeat offenders’, meaning tougher sentencing principles to protect community safety must be applied.
- Requiring offences of unlawful use of a motor vehicle with circumstances of aggravation of violence or threatened violence to be heard by a District Court judge.
- Expanding the number of offences with a presumption against bail: People who are passengers in stolen vehicles, commit burglary or enter a premise to commit an indictable offence will now have a presumption against bail.
- Clarifying that police do not need to consider alternatives to arrest if a young person contravenes or is likely to contravene a bail condition.
- Increasing youth detention capacity: Building on the 33% increase to youth detention centre capacity already delivered, the Government will build two new therapeutic youth detention centres, while also looking at a range of interim options to increase capacity. In addition, 18 year olds currently serving sentences in youth detention centres will be moved to adult prisons.”
The statement says these changes “build on proposed law changes”.
This builds on proposed laws announced in December 2022, including
- increasing the maximum penalty for unlawful use of a motor vehicle from seven years to 10 years’ imprisonment
- 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
- amending the Youth Justice Act requiring courts to take into account previous bail history, criminal activity and track record when sentencing
- increased penalties for criminals who have boasted about these crimes on social media.
“2. Tackling the complex causes of youth crime
While we target these serious high-risk offenders, we’ll continue to fight the complex causes of youth crime.
To help break this destructive cycle, we will take action and invest over $100 million in additional funds into programs proven to make a difference.
- Expansion of intensive case management: Already operational in Townsville and Cairns, intensive case management targets chronic young offenders aged 13 to 17 years, and their families, to help break the cycle of crime. This initiative will now be expanded to Brisbane, Logan, Toowoomba, Moreton, Gold Coast, Rockhampton and Ipswich.
- Expansion of youth co-responder teams: Dedicated teams of police and youth justice workers will provide a rapid response targeting young people at risk of offending and young people on bail. Already operational in many parts of Queensland, this proven initiative has already completed 40,000 engagements with young people including to check their compliance with bail conditions and follow up to ensure they are accessing the right services. This service will be expanded into Toowoomba, Hervey Bay, Mount Isa, Ipswich and South Brisbane.
- Expansion of the stronger communities initiative: Currently operating in Townsville with early positive outcomes, these early action groups bring together police and other key government representatives to provide intensive coordination of services to young people aged eight to 16 years who are at risk of falling into a cycle of crime. This initiative will now be rolled out in Mount Isa and Cairns.
- Further investment of $4 million in on country programs, providing culture based rehabilitation for young First Nations peoples including supervision by on country Elders
- More investment in grassroots early intervention: We’ll invest in more community-based initiatives targeting at-risk youth to provide recreational, learning, mentoring and drug and alcohol support to help break the cycle of offending. This investment includes $4.22m into the Townsville Street University and $1.5 million for Cairns Midnight Basketball.
These new initiatives build on the $800 million investment the Government has already made in responding to youth crime and tackling its complex causes to help break the cycle of offending for the future.
3. Supporting community safety
The Premier has been clear that community safety must always come first. That’s why the Government will do more to assist Queenslanders with crime prevention and providing support to victims.
- Expanded joint flying squads: $17 million is being invested for expert youth justice workers to partner with QPS in targeting high risk youth offending, providing specialist support and supplementing local resources across the sState. The squad will work with key agencies on the ground including health, education, disability services and First Nations initiatives.
- Helping seniors secure their homes: A new $15 million initiative will be trialled in three locations across Queensland to help senior citizens with the cost of securing their homes. It will help subsidise practical home security improvements, such as strengthening window locks and shutters, addressing design issues that enable ease of access and installing CCTV cameras.
- Vehicle immobilisers: $10 million will be provided in a trial to help subsidise the cost for Queenslanders to install vehicle immobilisers in Cairns, Townsville and Mount Isa. The trial will commence by mid-2023.
- Enhanced assistance for victims of crime, with a $9 million investment to respond better to victims of property crime where violence or a threat of violence has occurred, including $3 million to boost counselling capacity and support NGOs – building on the existing Victim Assist service.”
Read the Government announcement.