Government rejected solution to Qld’s youth crime crisis


The Palaszczuk Government was warned two years ago GPS trackers may help solve its youth justice crisis but will only now seriously consider it after finally admitting "we need to go harder" against repeat offenders.

After days of mounting pressure, Acting Premier Steven Miles admitted the government's review of youth justice "clearly may include needing to change the law", and would consider the use of GPS trackers as suggested by the Queensland Police Union.

The now revitalised idea was put forward by former police commissioner Bob Atkinson in 2018 in his review into youth justice, but was never adopted.

Police Minister Mark Ryan would not be drawn on why Cabinet slapped down the idea then, or why the idea was worthy of consideration now when the government had already decided against it.


Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan has admitted the government needs to go harder on repeat offenders. Picture: Dan Peled
Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan has admitted the government needs to go harder on repeat offenders. Picture: Dan Peled


But it's understood the plan was killed off by the powerful Left Faction, with key ministers against the idea of slapping ankle trackers on young, Indigenous children.

"I can specifically say to you everything is on the table, nothing is ruled out and we're going to look at every proposal," Mr Ryan said on GPS yesterday.

It came as he backed a crackdown on what police have called a small but hardened group of repeat offenders, many of which come from dysfunctional and even criminal families.

"There's those hardcore, recidivist offenders who we need to go harder on," Mr Ryan said.

"No doubt about it."

Mr Atkinson found GPS technology might be used by 16 and 17-year-old children where caregivers were available to enforce curfews and charge batteries.

"This would be the equivalent of detention but served in the community, for both remand and on sentence," he wrote in June 2018.

Former police commissioner Bob Atkinson.
Former police commissioner Bob Atkinson.

"The courts would need to assess a particular child to determine if electronic monitoring was suitable for them.

"Electronic monitoring in the community could also potentially be used as an alternative to detention for long-term remandees who are awaiting trial or as way of enabling children who are detained to participate in employment."

He said emerging technology might allow innocuous wristwatch-style trackers to be used, rather than the stigma-laden anklettes.

Meanwhile, the Police Minister confirmed laws may change to stop magistrates giving the benefit of the doubt to young people with long rap sheets when considering bail and sentencing.

"As I said, nothing's ruled out, so we're looking at all of those things and we'll be talking to the experts and looking at the evidence around it and if we can make changes that make the community safer then we will," he said.

Mr Ryan acknowledged Police Union president Ian Leavers's calls for the debate to include the fact many of the offenders were young Indigenous children.

"The statistics show that. It's not about agreeing or not, that's a public fact," he said.

"There's the broader national conversation which Ian Leavers raised that is essentially that Closing the Gap argument where you've got overrepresentation of First Nations people in particular statistics.

"Crime is one of them.

"It's not just young offenders, it's all offenders.

"Here in Queensland, the adult population, about a third are Indigenous people.

"They don't just wake up and become criminals, there is a broader story there."


Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers is calling for a national youth justice summit. Picture: John Gass
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers is calling for a national youth justice summit. Picture: John Gass



Mr Ryan said he was not opposed to a national youth justice summit as raised by Mr Leavers, and backed his recommendations around car immobilisers.

But he said they could only be implemented under a national strategy, like had been done for seatbelts.

"At a national fleet level, the technology is not mature enough," he said.

But he said "anyone in this room can go out and get this technology now and install it in their vehicle".

He said there may be a way to encourage that individual uptake.

Federal Opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney said violent crime should be punished but all Australian governments agreed on the need to reduce interactions between Indigenous youth and the criminal justice system.

"More interactions with the criminal justice system will only see greater incarceration of our young people; placing them at greater risk of recidivism and re-incarceration; and perpetuating this pervasive cycle for generations to come," she said.

"Diversionary measures are an effective way of reducing these interactions.

"This has been reflected in the refreshed Closing the Gap targets to reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in detention by 30 per cent."


Originally published as Government rejected solution to Qld's youth crime crisis