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Teenagers accused of breaking and entering, robbery or assault while on bail will be forced to prove why they should not be held on remand under law changes announced by Queensland’s Premier.
Annastacia Palaszczuk conceded the “community expects us to do more” after high-profile incidents in the past two weeks pulled the youth justice system into the spotlight.
On Tuesday the Ms Palaszczuk announced new measures to curb youth crime, four of which relate to bail.
“In cases of serious indictable offences such as breaking and entering and armed robbery, we are reversing the presumption of bail,” she told reporters in Brisbane.
“The courts will be empowered to require repeat offenders to give reasons why they should have bail instead of requiring prosecutors to prove why they should not.”
Courts could force 16- and 17-year-olds to wear GPS trackers as a condition of bail in a trial to be rolled out in north Brisbane, Moreton, Logan, Townsville and the Gold Coast.
“Now these trackers have also been operating in South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand and we believe that Queensland should also give this measure a trial,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Courts would be able to seek “assurances” from parents and carers that bail conditions could be adhered to or bail would not be granted.
Police would carry hand-held metal detectors to check for knives, particularly in the nightclub precinct on the Gold Coast, because of a “concerning trend around young people carrying knives in public places”.
New measures to tackle youth crime
- GPS tracking trial rolled out
- Reversing presumption of bail for serious offences such as armed robbery and sexual assault
- Courts given power to seek assurances from parents and guardians that bail conditions will be complied with
- Enshrining in legislation that offending whilst on bail will be deemed to be an aggravating circumstance when sentencing
- Amend Youth Justice Act
- Give police metal detector wands to check for knives
- Parliamentary inquiry into remote engine immobilisers
- 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 has also been ordered to see whether the government should roll out remote engine immobilisers, which can be used to slow and take control of a stolen car.
Police Minister Mark Ryan said the reform was about targeting the state’s young “hardcore recidivist offenders” — a group of about 400 responsible for almost half of all crime.
More recently, Queensland’s police union and LNP opposition had been pushing for GPS tracking for young repeat offenders. They had also campaigned for a return of breach of bail as an offence, to be addressed by the government by law changes making offending while on bail an aggravating circumstance in sentencing.
A new taskforce overseeing the changes will be headed by self-described “uncompromising” Assistant Commissioner Cheryl Scanlon, who was appointed to the Queensland Police Service’s security and counter-terrorism command in February last year.
Former police commissioner Bob Atkinson will complete a report on the effectiveness of the measures in six months. Ms Palaszczuk said the legislation would be introduced to Parliament when it returns this month.