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Two teens in custody over death of Jennifer Board in Townsville stolen car-chase

Politics

A man who was allegedly driving a stolen car involved in a crash that killed a young motorcyclist near Townsville has been arrested.

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Police say 22-year-old Jennifer Board died at Thuringowa on Friday night after being hit by a Holden Statesman, which had collided with the stolen Hyundai sedan during a suspected vigilante pursuit.

Officers confirmed an 18-year-old man was arrested in the Townsville suburb of Rasmussen on Monday morning.

He expected to be the charged later on the day.

A 17-year-old girl who was allegedly a passenger in the Hyundai has also been charged with five counts of unlawful use of a motor vehicle and one count of stealing.

Police are still trying to find the others in the stolen car and have called for anyone with any information to come forward.

Superintendent Glen Pointing said the Holden had been “aggressively” chasing the Hyundai at speed just before the crash and he warned people against vigilante actions.

“I very strongly caution against any form of vigilante action,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“Oftentimes whilst people may have good intentions it results in unintended consequences, it’s dangerous, and you leave yourself exposed if you take action yourself.

“So in very strong terms, I advise people not to take the law into their own hands.”

It is the second fatal crash involving teenagers driving allegedly stolen cars in Queensland in less than a month.

Brisbane couple Kate Leadbetter, 31, and her partner Matthew Field, 37, died after being hit by an allegedly stolen four-wheel drive in Alexandra Hills on Australia Day.

A 17-year-old boy has been charged with two counts of murder as well as offences relating to dangerous driving while under the influence of an intoxicant and burglary.

Police are waiting to determine if they will charge the teenager over the death of the couple’s unborn baby boy.

The crash has sparked widespread public debate about reforming Queensland’s youth justice system.

Queensland’s Opposition Leader has called on the State Government to reintroduce breach of bail as a criminal offence for young people when Parliament returns this month.

David Crisafulli made the comments in Townsville in the wake of Friday night’s incident.

Crisafulli said the incident leading to Board’s death was the latest in a string of offences that showed the state’s youth offending laws were not keeping the community safe.

“Unless we commit on February 23 to changing the laws to reinstate breach of bails as a criminal offence, we aren’t serious about it, because lives are being torn apart,” Crisafulli said.

The Government made changes to the Bail Act and Youth Justice Act in 2019 that increased the number of young offenders on bail and removed breach of bail as an automatic criminal offence.

Amendments passed last year meant children deemed an “unacceptable risk” to the community would not be granted bail, and would be remanded in custody.

Crisafulli said the Opposition was not suggesting the system should not allow people a second chance.

“We’re not dealing with someone stealing a KitKat — we are dealing with people who are habitual reoffenders and serious reoffenders,” Crisafulli said.

In the aftermath of Ms Board’s death, and following the deaths of pedestrians Matthew Field and his pregnant partner Kate Leadbetter in Brisbane, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk flagged sweeping changes to youth justice laws.

“Everything is on the table,” Palaszczuk said on Saturday.

She said she had met with the Minister for Police, Youth Justice and the Attorney-General, and there would be “announcements” this week.

The Queensland Police Service today announced the formation of a taskforce in Townsville to crack down on anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.

Siyavash Doostkhah, the director of Queensland’s Youth Affairs Network, said he hoped the Government would take an evidence-based approach to reform.

“The Premier now has the opportunity — they’ve just come out of an election — to reject outright any proposal that’s not soundly based on evidence,” Doostkhah said.

“And what they’ve actually been proposing, including changes to the bail laws, is not based on evidence … It is again using a tragedy to score political points.”

Doostkhah suggested the youth sector in Queensland was underfunded, and the wrap-around services needed to work in tandem with the Bail Act were missing in action.

“The vast majority of government funding has been directed at youth justice and youth prisons,” he said.

“Hardly any of it has gone to the youth sector, which has been neglected and the Government’s been trying to deal with this within the youth justice system and that’s been a miserable failure.”

A young life snuffed out

At the crash scene where Board died on Friday, flower memorials piled high as friends gathered to remember the young woman.

Luke Jenkins was friends with Board in primary school and became reacquainted with her recently through the gym she managed.

“It’s a hard day — it’s going to be hard now — not just for myself, but I speak on behalf of the community on this,” he said.

“It is pretty hard to take in and she will be sorely missed.

“She was just … honest and a very loving human being. Her presence is very much needed in a time like this and she will be sorely missed.

“This was very much preventable. It was also a bit of a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time kind of deal.

“This isn’t far from a traffic light and if that traffic light had been red, that would have made the world of difference and we wouldn’t be here in this unfortunate tragedy.”

– additional reporting ABC / Stephanie Zillman

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