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Australia Youth justice review on Palaszczuk Government agenda after spate of stolen car offences

23:39  01 february  2021
23:39  01 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a car parked on the side of a road: A group of youths allegedly drove a stolen vehicle dangerously around Townsville, injuring two police officers on Saturday. (Supplied: Troy Byrne) © Provided by ABC NEWS A group of youths allegedly drove a stolen vehicle dangerously around Townsville, injuring two police officers on Saturday. (Supplied: Troy Byrne)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has asked ministers to meet over the issue of youth justice in the wake of a number of incidents allegedly involving young people driving stolen cars.

Speaking in Townsville on Monday, Queensland's new Youth Justice Minister, Leanne Linard, said Ms Palaszczuk had asked her to meet with Police Minister Mark Ryan and Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman about the matter.

"We talk regularly anyway but that will occur very soon," Ms Linard said.

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"My view is the work is never done — we'll continue to review the youth justice system in the space since elected … and it's something we'll continue to review."

It comes after authorities alleged a group of youths — aged between 12 and 17 — drove an allegedly stolen car dangerously around Townsville on the weekend, with two police officers taken to hospital after losing control of their car and hitting a power pole.

Last week, a 17-year-old was also charged with murder after allegedly crashing a stolen car in Brisbane, killing expectant mother Katherine Leadbetter and her partner Matthew Field.

Acting Premier Steven Miles told ABC Radio Brisbane that "clearly there have been failings recently" in Queensland's youth justice system.

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"We've made great strides in reducing youth crime, but in the past week or so there have been some incidents that frankly shouldn't have happened," he said.

Mr Miles said there was no "silver bullet" to solve the issues but that the Government would continue to work on improving the system and welcomed all recommendations from Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll.

Last year, amendments were made to the Youth Justice Act to make it clear that if a young person was a danger to the community, they must be denied bail and kept in custody.

'Hardcore group of offenders'

Ms Linard said authorities were grappling with a small proportion of repeat offenders.

"You look across Queensland — most young people are doing the right thing — I think about 2 per cent of young people offend," Ms Linard said.

"Of that 2 per cent, probably 85 per cent will never come into contact with the system again after they've had a first offence.

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"But what we also know is we have a hardcore group of offenders — we talk about the 10 per cent — that are engaging in this repeat behaviour and in some cases, taking higher and higher risks."

According to the 2019-2020 Childrens Court of Queensland annual report, 10 per cent of all young offenders were responsible for 48 per cent of all proven offences.

Ms Linard said what happened to the police officers on the weekend was "absolutely appalling".

'Police are not babysitters'

Deputy Commissioner for Regional Queensland Paul Taylor said the officers involved were fine, but it was a "fine line between minor injuries and fatalities".

He said he was unable to talk about individual cases before the courts, but that in the past week there had been 11 unlawful use of motor vehicle-type incidents across the state, with five adults and 18 youths allegedly involved.

"Police are not babysitters … police are running around chasing these kids when they should be home at bed," he said.

"There's a general lack of guardianship — I'm not making excuses — but some of these kids come from horrific backgrounds.

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"We need to collectively work together within community, across all agencies, across all entities, to take a better interest in the nurturing of our young people."

Thuringowa MP Aaron Harper — his Townsville electorate is where the weekend incident occurred — said he had made a lot of phone calls to ministers and "my expectation is that we do more".

"I have a very clear expectation to get this fixed," he said.

"It's about addressing, yes, the causes, but let's not for a moment, as a community, tolerate this kind of behaviour on our streets".

Mundingburra MP Les Walker said crime was part of the community and "we have to manage it as best we can".

"The results have been great but we can improve and make it much, much better," he said.

"Most people understand crime has a cause and that's a breakdown of the family unit."

Most young offenders 'have problems'

LNP Member for Burdekin and police spokesman Dale Last called for breach of bail to be brought back as an offence for children.

It was introduced by the Newman government then removed in 2015 by the Palaszczuk Government.

However, barrister Damien Atkinson QC, chair of the Youth Advocacy Centre, said sweeping up young offenders and putting them in youth detention centres "is masking the issues".

"In our experience, more than 70 per cent of the children who are offending have problems," he said.

"Long before the coronavirus we had epidemics in this state involving ice, domestic violence, homelessness, mental health and alcohol.

"It's unsurprising that children from affected homes act poorly. But if we just lock them up for longer, we're not going to reduce reoffending."

He said an advisory group should be set up, similar to the one that tackled the crisis of children being held in watch houses.

"I would do three things to strengthen the bail regime," he said.

"First, introduce strong accommodation options so that when a child's released on bail they're secure and not living on the streets; second, good programs like mental health, drug offending and traffic issues to address anti-social behaviour; and third, tight supervision and guidance to divert young people away from offending behaviour."

Qld govt urged to rethink youth crime plan .
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This is interesting!