SPEECH YOUTH JUSTICE AND OTHER LEGISLATION (Inclusion of 17-year-old Persons) AMENDMENT BILL | 04 No

Posted On: 4 Nov 2016

rise to add my contribution to the Youth Justice and Other Legislation (Inclusion of 17-year-old Persons) Amendment Bill 2016. The bill’s objectives are to increase the upper age of who is a child for the purposes of the Youth Justice Act 1992 from 16 years to 17 years and to establish a regulation-making power to provide transitional arrangements for the transfer of 17-year-olds from the adult criminal justice system to the youth justice system.

Notably, the committee could not reach agreement on whether or not the bill should be passed. Similarly when the youth justice bill was debated earlier this year, the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee could not reach agreement on whether or not that bill should be passed. Non-government committee members commenting on the earlier bill acknowledged that the bill did not address the fundamental and ongoing issue in youth justice in Queensland, and neither does this one, as was so ably articulated by the honourable member for Mansfield.

As part of Labor’s revenge politics to undo everything the LNP did because they had no policy of their own, Labor repealed the LNP’s 2014 youth justice reforms. Boot camp orders were removed from sentencing for children, publication of identifying information was prohibited, and breach of jail was removed as an offence. These laws were introduced by the LNP government as appropriate measures to tackle the rising problem of repeat offenders in Queensland, and they were working.

The LNP will be opposing the bill before us because we are not satisfied that the government can guarantee the safety of very young detainees—as young as 10—if 17-year-olds are moving into the juvenile justice system and the cost of the transition is not able to be determined as the transition plan is yet to be put in place. The issue of `no plan, we’ll make it up as we go’ was of genuine concern to non-government members of the committee worried about the impact such interactions might have on those aged 10 to 13. I share those concerns, despite attempts of assurance by the Attorney. The department advised— This issue has literally been on the books since 1992 … so it is something that is talked about constantly in youth justice.

Labor have been in government for the major part of the past 20 years in Queensland and have admitted it has been constantly talked about, so why have they not got a transition plan in place? They have had, as I said, over 20 years.

The LNP has consistently expressed concerns about the lack of detail around Labor’s proposed youth detention laws. Currently 17-year-olds in adult prisons cannot mix with the adult prison population—they are permanently separated—but without details this bill would allow them to be moving amongst persons as young as 10. Concerns have been raised about a lack of vocational training for this cohort should they be moved into juvenile detention, similar to teenage foster-kids over the years being lumped into motel rooms, given an Xbox and told to amuse themselves. Without tools and skills to gain employment, these young people are more likely to continue their criminal ways and choose to mix with others like them.

Non-government members of the committee feel it is important to ensure there are educational opportunities for those in detention to help curb recidivism. Departmental evidence showed that 52 per cent of those currently in youth detention facilities had a prior admission to detention, yet the department said they did not collect data of recidivism rates for those currently in detention facilities so it is unclear how many prior admissions there may have been. There has always been a gap between what Labor say they will do and what they actually do. Failure to collect accurate data after all these years is inexcusable.

We are told that approximately 55 17-year-olds will be transferring from adult prisons into the youth justice system. Ten of these young people will be sentenced and the remainder on remand are awaiting a court hearing. There were 210 17-year-olds on community based orders at the time of the department’s briefing who would be transferred over to youth justice community based management supervision.

The explanatory notes acknowledge that the costs of implementing the bill would be substantial, even without accompanying youth justice reforms that reduce offending and reoffending and the numbers of young people in custody on remand. Saying costs are substantial is something of an understatement—a gross understatement at that—when costs are estimated to be some $440 million at $44 million per year for around 55 youth as well as the cost of remand reduction strategies and infrastructure.

As the member for Currumbin for almost 13 years, I have witnessed some pretty scary periods during that time when our youth were exhibiting unruly, reckless behaviours and taking to our suburban streets in their hundreds causing havoc as they went. Thankfully, due to a combined community and police approach we were able to curb those behaviours and prevent an escalation of events. I am very proud that I initiated an approach that saw our police and community working together in a truly cohesive way and supporting a range of initiatives implemented by some police who understood the power of a collaborative approach.

I commend the dedicated efforts of now Assistant Commissioner Brett Pointing, now Superintendent Jim Keogh and then Inspector Des Lacy, who worked tirelessly with the community to fix our wayward youth. Some of the initiatives like the Palm Beach CCC and a parent led truancy task force had a huge impact in putting an end to these large gatherings of youth causing mayhem. That was a decade ago now, and the challenges, temptations, proliferation of social and digital media, and criminal activities facing our youth have escalated especially when it comes to drugs. Not only are they more accessible; they are more dangerous in their potency and leading to acts of extreme violence.

At around 10.30 pm on Sunday, 10 April a group of 12 to 15 youths approached a stationary bus and started beating the door demanding to be let on. Using the emergency release button, one youth forced his way onto the bus and approached the driver, who told the boy the bus was not operational and told him to leave. The boy refused. Moments later the two became involved in a scuffle where the driver was punched in the face by the boy before two more members of the group entered the bus and began punching and kicking the driver.

It is common knowledge that juvenile offenders are often seen as soft targets by criminal gangs on the Gold Coast who entice them to join feeder clubs whose initiations and activities lead them to membership of adult clubs. The people of Currumbin and the greater Gold Coast are fearful that any weakening of the LNP’s tough VLAD laws will make these youngsters even softer targets. Just recently there has been a spate of rock- and other missile-throwing incidents targeting buses during the school holiday period. The culprits have not been caught, but thousands of dollars worth of damage to bus windows has been caused that has taken them out of service.

Fare evasion is costing residents over $25 million a year. Those opposite might snigger that these are not serious offences. However, I argue that some of the youth who get away with smaller offences go on to commit bigger crimes. You do not hear about some of the crimes committed by the worst juvenile offenders because the perpetrator is classified as a youth. Granted they are only few in number, but their offences are frightening including rape, attempted murder and assault. Do we really think it is okay to place these felons in the company of 10-, 11-, and 12-year-olds in youth detention? Well, I do not.

I doubt there is disagreement amongst honourable members that issues in our youth detention centres are incredibly complex and deserving of careful consideration, but words are cheap in politics and headlines are not worth the paper they are printed on if policies do not work—or, worse, they actually have the potential to cause harm to another younger cohort. Fifty-two per cent of youth in detention are repeat offenders. Labor’s soft-on-crime approach means kids do not get pulled up early. Former New York mayor Giuliani referred to early intervention as the ‘broken windows’ policy which saw police and law enforcers crack down on the small stuff and send a message that breaking the law will not be tolerated.

I would like to commend local resident Ian Grace for his unswerving dedication to youth through the Palm Beach Youth Music Venture. For the past seven years, Ian has encouraged youth with musical aspirations to form bands and, with the help of some amazing mentors, showcase their talents at an annual concert. I am very proud to be the patron. Unfortunately, though, I imagine most of the 17-year-olds who would be affected by these new laws are well past the small stuff and, as repeat offenders, have the capacity to influence younger youth. Government members argue about the negative influence of adult prisons. I contend that the risk of harm and/or corruption to an easily led younger age group is far more alarming, but I bet there is not any data on that, and therein lies the problem. The LNP will be opposing this bill.

 

 

Welcome from Jann

As the State Member for Currumbin since 2004 we have achieved much together to make the place we call home an even better and safer community.

It truly is an honour to serve the caring and connected residents of Currumbin.

Your thoughts and concerns matter to me and I look forward to continuing to be a strong voice on your behalf.

My electorate office staff and I are here to help you with state government issues.

Kind regards

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