Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Earlier this week I spoke of the tragic death of 22-year-old Jennifer Board. Jennifer was killed when her motorbike was hit by a car which was chasing a stolen car. Lawlessness in Townsville has been rife for years, and we have now lost five lives in these circumstances in 12 months just in Townsville. Three more lives were lost only a couple of weeks before in Brisbane in similar circumstances. The last thing anyone wants to do is politicise these tragic deaths. This should be about people and have nothing to do with politics.
What I am about to say comes from a genuine place of concern and a gut-wrenching sense of responsibility to the community that has elected me. We've had the revolving door of the juvenile youth justice system continue spinning for far too long. Young people on bail have been allowed to break conditions with zero consequences. They have been sent off to endless programs that they don't finish, don't work in or don't show up to.
In the last week there have been some announcements around the youth justice laws. My community have spoken out and said they are weak at best and that they certainly don't meet the community expectations of Townsville. Yes, the presumption of bail will be reversed but that will only apply for serious indictable offences, and we don't know which offences will be serious. The examples provided on the day of the announcement didn't include unlawful use of a motor vehicle, which is the offence most rife in my community. How can we be sure these changes will make our streets any safer?
A trial of GPS trackers for offenders aged 16 and 17 who are on bail was also announced. That sounds good, but what we haven't mentioned is that there is a shortage of GPS trackers in Townsville and that there are crimes being committed by juveniles as young as 10, 11 and 12 years old. The announcement failed to mention how a court orders the GPS trackers to be placed on offenders but that they have to be shipped up from Brisbane, which takes days, so they ask the offenders to promise to return to have them fitted. What happens in the meantime? What happens the offender doesn't turn up? Will they be charged with a breach of bail? They won't, because breach of bail has not been made an offence. This means a young offender can breach their bail conditions and won't get any extra punishment for it.
The community of Townsville expect different. They expect breach of bail to be an offence. If you breach bail, you should go to jail. They no longer want detention to be a last resort, as defined in the Youth Justice Act. They want these young offenders off the streets so that they can sleep soundly in their beds at night. I urge the Premier to listen to our community, recall parliament now and make the changes that the people of Townsville expect and deserve.