OVERHAUL: New bail laws, GPS tagging in youth crime blitz

 

Courts will be given the powers to deploy GPS trackers as a condition of bail on youth offenders in Queensland, as part of the government's response to the public outcry following a spate of high-profile incidents.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the sweeping changes today, describing them as tough measures as she insisted her Cabinet was 100 per cent behind them.

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE THE FULL LIST OF NEW MEASURES BEING BROUGHT IN

She said the public had wanted the government to do more, and they had listened.

"It's not going to happen overnight. It's going to take time," she said of expected results.

"...The public will be kept up to date around what actions we are taking."

She said the laws would be introduced to parliament this month.

"I have responded to the community's concerns," she said.

Ms Palaszczuk said GPS trackers were already available to be used by the courts as soon as that legislation was passed.

Minister for Police Mark Ryan said using GPS trackers may mean that authorities could manage people more safely in the community.
Minister for Police Mark Ryan said using GPS trackers may mean that authorities could manage people more safely in the community.

There will be seven measures introduced, including empowering courts to require the fitting of GPS trackers on recidivist high risk offenders aged 16 and 17 as a condition of bail.

The trackers will be trialled in the following regions: Moreton, north Brisbane, Townsville, Logan and the Gold Coast.

"The community expects us to do more and that's exactly what we will do," Palaszczuk said.

"It is absolutely heartbreaking (what has happened) and I know every Queensland family out there feels the tragic loss of these people. That is why today we are taking very strong action.

"Cabinet is absolutely unanimous in the decisions we have taken. They are strong measures. They are tough measures.

"I want all of Queensland to know we are 100 per cent united in the announcements we are making today."

There will now be a presumption against bail for youth offenders for certain offences, including breaking and entering, serious sexual assault and armed robbery.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will announce details of the taskforce. Picture: David Clark
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will announce details of the taskforce. Picture: David Clark

 

The government won't make breach of bail an offence - something the LNP has repeatedly called for.

But they will enshrine in legislation that offending whilst on bail will be deemed to be an aggravating circumstance when sentencing.

Courts will be allowed to seek assurances from parents and guardians that youth offenders will comply with bail conditions before they are released.

Asked whether the government was concerned changes announced today could swing around to a scenario in which young people were again being held in police watchhouses because there was no room in youth detention, Minister for Police Mark Ryan said: "If a young person needs to be detained, then they should be."

He said using GPS trackers may mean that authorities could manage people more safely in the community.

Police will also be armed with metal detecting wands in a bid to target knife crime on the Gold Coast.

A parliamentary inquiry will be held to examine the implementation of remote engine immobilisers for vehicles.

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll has welcomed the measures.

Former Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson will review the reforms in the next six months.

Mr Ryan said allowing police to check youths suspected of carrying weapons came after police had noticed more people doing it.

"We've noticed a very concerning trend around young people carrying knives in public places," he said.

He said the government had been listening to police on the ground and responding to what they said they needed.

Mr Ryan said the government would take guidance from police prosecutors around who should be recommended to courts for GPS tracking.

Townsville Police arrest two 18yo men, in relation to an alleged stolen car involved in the death of Jennifer Broad. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Townsville Police arrest two 18yo men, in relation to an alleged stolen car involved in the death of Jennifer Broad. Picture: Alix Sweeney

 

"We have a very robust system. I'm informed our system is world's best practice," he said.

"We do have a very robust system and I can give you an example.

"There was an adult offender who we were tracking recently who breached the conditions ... we caught them within 10 minutes. That is the benefit of this technology. This will provide another aspect to the suite of options we have. We have significant investment already but this is another option."

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said she was confident the community would be better protected due to the suite of measures being announced today.

"I welcome the trials," she said.

"What the trail does is give the ability to see what's working."

She also welcomed an evaluation that will be done in six months' time by former commissioner Bob Atkinson

Meanwhile, Queensland's anti-terror boss will head a new youth crime taskforce as the government moves to adopt GPS trackers and law changes to put more child criminals behind bars.

The laws come a fortnight after the horrific hit-and-run deaths of Kate Leadbetter and Matt Field and their unborn son Miles and just days after 22-year-old Jennifer Board was killed in Townsville, allegedly by vigilantes chasing a stolen car being driven by an 18-year-old.

"The loss of four innocent lives cannot go unanswered," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"It is clear to me and to the community that some young offenders simply don't care about consequences.

"It's this 10 per cent who are responsible for 48 per cent of the crime.

"They're the ones we are going to target with all the force and resources at our disposal."

The Premier will appoint Assistant Commissioner Cheryl Scanlon - a 33-year police veteran with a background in child safety - to head the new Youth Crime Taskforce.

 

Cheryl Scanlon will be in charge of the new Youth Crime Taskforce.
Cheryl Scanlon will be in charge of the new Youth Crime Taskforce.

 

It follows her recent work heading the state's Security and Counter Terrorism Command.

Ms Palaszczuk said Ms Scanlon was the perfect choice for the role.

"I have asked Commissioner Katarina Carroll for a senior, respected and uncompromising member of our police service to oversee these measures," she said.

Assistant Commissioner Scanlon said there would not be a tougher job in her career.

"It's a tough job and I'm not under any illusion around what this will take," she said.

"I know how the system works and some of the challenges we have.

"I will ask the hard questions and I will want answers about what's happening with this high risk youth. It's so important we get this right.

"I will be out and about around the state and will very much be the face of this.

"I expect you will hear more from me."

She said she would use her extensive background in youth justice and child safety to ensure all components of the system were working together.

She said supports around children were vital to make sure that children weren't reoffending.

It's understood the government response will zero in on about 300 "hardcore" offenders statewide that have been terrorising communities, are responsible for nearly half the crime being committed and aren't responding to current juvenile justice programs.

GPS will likely be used to track offenders, as recommended by former police commissioner Bob Atkinson more than two years ago in a youth justice review and again called for last week by the powerful Queensland Police Union.

 

 

The technology may be used to track youths on remand who are awaiting trail.

Mr Atkinson also suggested GPS could be used for older youths finishing the end of a sentence in detention who may be able to complete that time in home detention, freeing up space in detention centres for those hardcore, recidivist offenders.

It's also understood police will trial the use of scanning wands in the Gold Coast Safe Night district to target youths who are suspected of carrying weapons.

Laws will also change to make it clear to the judiciary that custody is no longer an absolute last resort after complaints that relaxed bail laws had created a revolving door of child criminals.

But a separate breach of bail offence will not be introduced, despite repeated calls from the LNP Opposition.

 

IN DETAIL: THE NEW ACTION BEING TAKEN TO TACKLE YOUTH CRIME


Courts will get more powers allowing them to:

Require fitting of electronic monitoring devices (GPS Trackers)

As a condition of bail for recidivist high risk offenders aged 16 and 17

Create a presumption against bail

For youth offenders arrested for committing further serious indictable offences (such as breaking and entering, serious sexual assault and armed robbery) while on bail

Seek assurances from parents and guardians

That bail conditions will be complied with before an offender is released

Strengthen existing bail laws to provide further guidance to the courts

The Youth Justice Act will be amended to include a reference to the community being protected from recidivist youth offenders in the Charter of Youth Justice Principles

The government will also enshrine in legislation the existing common law principle that offending whilst on bail is an aggravating circumstance when the court is imposing a sentence.

TO PREVENT CRIME:

Police will be given metal detecting wands to target knife crime on the Gold Coast;

Anti-hooning laws will be strengthened to hold the registered owner of a vehicle responsible except where the vehicle is stolen or the owner can identify another driver; 

A parliamentary inquiry will examine the implementation of remote engine immobilisers

Assistant Police Commissioner Cheryl Scanlon, Queensland's former Security and Counter Terrorism Command will lead a Youth Crime Taskforce to implement the new measures.

 

 

Originally published as War on kid crims: Anti-terror boss to head taskforce


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