Youth justice advocates and lawyers have criticised the Queensland government’s sweeping youth justice changes for missing the mark, saying the focus should instead be on diversion programs and the child protection system, which a majority of young offenders were also involved with, the Brisbane Times reports.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a number of new measures to curb youth crime in the state after several high-profile incidents pulled the issue into focus in recent weeks and sparked calls for change from the police union and both sides of government.
Tuesday February 9: Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced seven new ‘tough’ measures to reduce youth crime, four of which relate to bail.
Among the changes, to be introduced to Parliament this month, are a trial of GPS tracking devices for some repeat offenders, and a reversal of the presumption of bail, which will require the accused to prove why they should not be held on remand for serious offences committed while on bail.
But University of Queensland law professor Tamara Walsh said the small cohort at the centre of the government’s plan – about 400 repeat offenders responsible for almost half of all youth crime, which is declining as a whole – were also some of the state’s most vulnerable.
“It may look good on paper – it may look like the government is cracking down – but really, it is just completely taking the context out,” Professor Walsh said. “It’s a misallocation of resources, and also attention. The attention should be on the child protection system … that’s what is failing.”
Professor Walsh said many offenders were victims of crime themselves and had other complex problems, including mental and physical health issues, difficult home lives, and disengagement with school and work.
Steven Depolo / Kenan Institute for Ethics