Breaching bail will be an offence for youth offenders in Queensland going forward, as the government introduces a batch of new laws to address the state’s escalating juvenile crime wave. Among the new penalties is the option to declare certain offenders “serious repeat offenders,” which will lead to harsher sentencing. The government will also increase the number of offences where a judge must consider a case with a “presumption against bail.”
The Palaszczuk government’s 2019 law change stated that detention was to be considered a “last resort” for youth offenders, and granting bail was instead encouraged. This was a reversal of former Premier Campbell Newman’s earlier laws.
“We have listened to the community. This action is all about putting community safety first,” said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in a statement. “We will use the full force of the law to target the small cohort of serious repeat offenders that currently pose a threat to community safety.”
The new laws come in response to calls from the state opposition for tougher penalties against youth repeat offenders, including ensuring that a breach of bail is an offence, removing the provision of detention as a last resort, and increasing early intervention to help turn a life of crime.
Violent incidents involving young repeat offenders in the state, such as the fatal stabbing of 41-year-old Emma Lovell in Brisbane’s North Lakes and the stabbing death of a 43-year-old man in Wilston, have also prompted the government to take action. The bus driver’s union has even stopped travelling into the lower socio-economic areas of Inala and Forest Lake due to safety concerns.
The state government is also pledging $100 million to try to tackle the root cause of youth crime, including expanding intensive case management to deal with chronic offenders across major city centres, setting up a dedicated team of police and youth justice workers to deal with those at risk of offending, and investing more in community activities such as recreation, learning, and drug or alcohol support.
Data from the Productivity Commission revealed that Queensland had the highest rate of repeat offending among juvenile offenders in 2019-20, with 56.8 percent of offenders aged 10 to 16 re-sentenced for new offences within 12 months of being released from supervision. The state also had the highest daily average of 287 people in youth detention in 2021-22.