General News

11 January, 2023

Tougher laws give community hope

COMMUNITY leaders have welcomed a swathe of reforms introduced by the State Government which will ensure tougher punishments are handed down to youth crime offenders however they are waiting to see just how effective the new laws will be.

By Rhys Thomas

Tougher laws give community hope - feature photo

The changes were announced recently and include changes to jail time served, adjustments to the Youth Justice Act, a trial of engine immobilizers and a near $10 million fast-track sentencing program.

Offenders can now receive 10 years maximum for stealing a car instead of seven and a more severe penalty of 14 years applies if the offence is committed at night, where the offender uses violence or threatens violence, is armed or pretends to be armed, is in company or damages or threatens to damage any property.

The Youth Justice Act will also be amended and require courts to consider previous bail history, criminal activity and track record when sentencing, there will be increased penalties for criminals who have boasted about their crimes on social media and a trial of engine immobilisers for Mt Isa, Cairns and Townsville.

Mareeba Shire Council Mayor Angela Toppin welcomes the reforms but believes they will need to be “unpacked” to understand how effective they will be.

“The State Government is responding to a youth crime epidemic and this crisis does require a targeted response,” she said.

“In some cases, the courts are dealing with hardened, recidivist offenders whose crimes are escalating, and, in those instances, tougher sentencing options are necessary.

“One size does not fit all, however, council will continue to lobby for improved services to address disadvantage, with the view that this will lead to a reduction in youth crime.”

Mareeba Shire has spent months calling on the State Government to address youth crime and had four of its proposed motions obtain majority support at the LGAQ State Conference last year.

These motions included the introduction of diversionary facilities on remote state-owned properties where young offenders can learn social and technical skills instead of being sent to a youth detention centre.

However, when it comes to more hardened recidivist offenders who refuse to change, Mayor Toppin agrees they should be incarcerated in detention facilities.

“Community safety is a complex issue and, unfortunately, many of the perpetrators are suffering very high levels of disadvantage.

“I am very concerned to ensure that any reforms will lead to better outcomes for individuals and that the supports are in place to give our young people a chance to change.

“It is my hope for 2023 that, as a community we continue to focus on solutions, on positive change and on long-term outcomes that benefit everyone. We are not alone. The challenges that are being faced by the Mareeba Shire, are common across Queensland.”

Avid community safety advocate Denis McKinley welcomes the new reforms but believes major changes to the Youth Justice Act and breach of bail need to be done to see actual results.

“They have to make breach of bail a real serious offence because we are not going to solve the revolving door problem – they have to change it,” he said.

“We all know they get sentenced seven to 14 years and then they get parole after two years and they are out again.

“Make breach of bail a serious offence and give them five years no parole or whatever it may be because they just keep coming back out pinching cars and the system goes around in a big circle.”


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