Government puts blame on courts after fatal teen crash

Callum Godde |

Three teenagers have been charged over a crash involving a stolen car in Melbourne’s east.
Three teenagers have been charged over a crash involving a stolen car in Melbourne’s east.

The Victorian government has taken the children’s court to task over its handling of repeat youth offenders following a deadly crash in Melbourne’s east.

A 28-year-old from Ashburton was killed on Tuesday night after his vehicle was crashed into by a stolen Jeep Grand Cherokee allegedly being driven fast and erratically.

There were up to six teens in the Jeep, with four males fleeing after the crash at the intersection of Warrigal and Highbury roads.

A 17-year-old boy was arrested in Malvern East on Wednesday night and charged with culpable driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death, failing to stop and render assistance, theft of motor vehicle and unlicensed driving.

He will face court on Thursday afternoon.

Two 15-year-old girls arrested at the scene were charged with theft of a motor vehicle and bailed to appear before a children’s court at a later date.

Police Minister Anthony Carbines described the incident as a worse-nightmare scenario, with “lawlessness” and “recklessness” taking an innocent life.

“The government understands that the community is concerned that those repeat offenders continue to cause crimes, continue to grow their number of victims because they don’t fear the consequences, in many cases, that are being handed out to them,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“So we need to ensure courts take responsibility for explaining the decisions they make, for reflecting community’s expectations and values.”

Detective Senior Sergeant Christian Von Tunk.
Detective Senior Sergeant Christian Von Tunk says fleeing and leaving a dying man is “cowardly”. (Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS)

Police described the decision of the occupants to allegedly run off and abandon a dying man as “absolutely cowardly”.

“It was high-impact, high-speed impact,” Detective Senior Sergeant Christian Von Tunk said on Wednesday.

“They know someone would have been hurt in that vehicle … to leave a person either injured or killed is cowardly.”

The Jeep was allegedly stolen during an aggravated home burglary in Cranbourne South, before being used in two armed robberies in Ormond and Ripponlea on June 30.

Three other teens remain on the run and police have warned their friends and family to urge them to come forward.

Latest crime statistics show the number of offenders in the 15 to 17 age cohort in the 12 months to March rose by almost 25 per cent to 15,495.

Police estimate 100 to 200 young offenders are driving the crime wave and have launched operations to tackle youth gangs, aggravated burglaries and stolen vehicles.

Mr Carbines said police had made it clear that it was only a matter of time someone would be killed or injured by a stolen vehicle being driven recklessly.

“It is incumbent on the courts to make sure that repeat serious offenders who are on bail have that bail revoked,” he said.

“That is the expectation of the government, the parliament and the people of Victoria.”

Deputy Liberal leader David Southwick said it was absolutely ridiculous for the government to blame rising youth crime on the courts.

“How many innocent lives need to be lost before the government does something about the youth crime crisis here in Victoria,” he said.

The Allan Labor government introduced long-awaited youth justice legislation to state parliament on June 18.

The bill will lower the age of prosecution for recruiting children to commit crimes from 21 to 18 and establish a two-year trial of electronic monitoring of repeat offenders on bail.

It has yet to pass parliament.

Mr Carbines signalled the government would not reconsider moving to lift the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12.