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GPS trackers, parents in court under Palaszczuk’s youth crime crackdown

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Repeat youth offenders in Queensland will be fitted with GPS trackers and there will be presumption against bail for those charged with serious offences in a crackdown also targeting hoons and nightclub thugs

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After a public outcry over two fatal traffic accidents, one allegedly committed by a teenager on bail, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today confirmed the courts would be required to shift focus in bail matters.

On Australia Day in Alexandra Hills, Kate Leadbetter and her partner Matt Field were killed when they were struck by a car allegedly stolen and driven by a teenager. The 17-year-old has been charged with a string of offences, including two counts of murder, however police were unable to charge him over the death of the couple’s unborn son.

On Friday night, Jennifer Board, 22, died in Townsville after she was allegedly hit by a Holden Statesman, which had been following a stolen Hyundai sedan during a suspected vigilante pursuit.

A 25-year-old Bushland Beach man who was allegedly driving the Holden was arrested on Monday and charged with murder.

Two 18-year-old men, from Rasmussen and Garbutt, were also charged over the fatal crash.

After meeting with ministers and bureaucrats on Friday, ahead of a marathon Cabinet meeting on Monday, Palaszczuk today announced a package of measures she hoped would satisfy community calls for reform.

Rather than there being a presumption of bail, requiring police prosecutors to argue why someone should be kept in custody, the alleged offender will need to justify their continued freedom. Palaszczuk said that would also put more pressure on the families of young people to convince the courts they will not present a risk to the public if released on bail.

For the first time in Queensland, some courts will be given the added option of ordering 16 or 17-year-old alleged offenders to wear GPS trackers while on bail. That will be trialled, in the Townsville, Logan, Gold Coast, Moreton and North Brisbane regions.

Palaszczuk said legislation would be introduced to support the crackdown targeting the 10 per cent of young offenders responsible for almost half of the crimes by their cohort.

“We can’t just do one thing, we have to do everything that is at our disposal,” Palaszczuk said.

Veteran police officer Cheryl Scanlon will head a new state-wide youth crime taskforce, and today said engaging the families of alleged offenders was “critical” in tackling the problem. That follows the formation of another Townsville-specific police taskforce.

Scanlon downplayed the need for bail breaches to be a criminal offence, as demanded by the Opposition, saying the issue was complex and multi-faceted.

“It’s important that there is a parent or guardian in court and that’s also about the root cause … and why are they out at 2 o’clock in the morning stealing motor vehicles,” Scanlon said.

Former police commissioner Bob Atkinson will also be called back to conduct a review after six months.

Youth Justice Minister Leanne Linard said previous youth justice reforms had contributed to a 23 per cent decrease in the numbers of youth offenders.

“For example, our Transition 2 Success Program has a 67 per cent success rate,” the Minister said.

“About 187 young people have attended and 67 per cent have not re-offended.”

Palaszczuk said that, in response to calls from the police union, police would be given hand-held metal detectors, or wands, to check people for knives in Gold Coast nightclub precincts.

Anti-hooning laws will also be tightened again, to make the registered owner of a vehicle take more responsibility, while a parliamentary inquiry will examine the potential role of remote engine immobilisers.

 

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