Attorney-General Yvette D'Arth and Barry O'Rourke MP inspect the Rockhampton courthouse renovations
Attorney-General Yvette D'Arth and Barry O'Rourke MP inspect the Rockhampton courthouse renovations Jann Houley

Queensland courts hold highest number of children on remand

QUEENSLAND has the highest per cent of children held on remand, according to the Attorney-General.

Yvette D'Arth, also the Minister of Justice, said it was "inaccurate” to suggest the courts are too lenient in letting offenders out on bail, during her visit to Rockhampton yesterday.

This comes as three more juveniles, aged 12 to 15, were charged with armed robbery and unlawful possession of stolen property, following a string of violent attacks at Rockhampton supermarkets on Sunday night.

The robbery spree was the latest in a string of offences committed by juveniles in Rockhampton and Yeppoon areas over the past two months.

Yeppoon Town Hall hosted a Community Safety Forum on June 6.

"Queensland has the highest number of remanded children at 80 to 85 per cent,” Ms D'Arth said.

"There are kids in watchhouses because they're not being let out on bail.

"No matter what age you are, you're going to be held accountable if you commit a crime.”

Ms D'Arth reflected on the recent attacks on Wandal and Park Avenue supermarkets by a group of juveniles, at least one of whom faced a hearing as the press conference took place.

"Any average parent would be scratching their heads, wondering what an 11-year old is doing, wandering the streets at night,” she said.

"Getting juveniles out of the system is not just about improving social wellbeing; it has a significant economic impact on all the community.”

She said the Queensland government has invested heavily in early intervention and diversionary programs to prevent children from reaching the court system.

"The best thing any Government can do is identify kids when they start dropping out of school, when we start seeing issues with family and support,” she said.

"We need to get them back into school, into education and employment.

"If they don't have skills or jobs, the likelihood they'll reoffend is far greater.”

Ms D'Arth said the Queensland Government worked closely with mental health officers, police, as well as child safety and protection professionals to offer early intervention.

"We have to deal with the whole family, not just the individual youths,” she said.

"They're in an environment which involves drugs, parents in the criminal justice system, mental health and addiction issues, violence and abuse.”

According to figures obtained by the Courier Mail, robbery offences soared by more than 52 per cent in 2018, up from 677 in 2017.

The number of juveniles charged with assault increased from 2918 to 3030, while sexual offences rose from 531 to 536.

Support workers suggest most young offenders either used methamphetamines, which are cheap and readily available, or have been impacted by their use.

The Attorney-General was in town to inspect $12 million upgrades to the East St court house which she said is providing 22 local jobs and will employ another 17 people into the next financial year.

Hutchinsons Builders have been contracted to enclose the upper deck, increase conference and jury room facilities and install proper accessibility for people with a disability.

She said the project is definitely on time and on budget, with 90 per cent of windows replaced and the roof completed.