Community pressure builds over youth crime crisis

Callum Godde |

Public outcry over bail for a teen accused of killing another driver in a high-speed crash has increased scrutiny on efforts to tackle rampant youth crime.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes and Police Minister Anthony Carbines will meet with Victoria Police, legal experts and youth workers on Wednesday and Thursday to address the issue.

The meetings will focus on quick implementation of the government’s youth justice bill once it passes parliament and extra measures to respond to community safety concerns.

A 17-year-old boy was released on bail despite being charged over a crash at Burwood in Melbourne’s east on July 2 that killed 28-year-old trainee doctor William Taylor.

Victoria Police alleged the 17-year-old had failed to comply with bail conditions on Tuesday afternoon and his whereabouts were unknown.

He was arrested several hours later and remanded in custody, to appear before a children’s court on Wednesday.

William Taylor who died in a crash in Melbourne's Burwood on July 2.
William Taylor died in a crash when a stolen jeep T-boned his car. (HANDOUT/VICTORIA POLICE)

Six occupants were allegedly inside a stolen Jeep when it T-boned Mr Taylor’s hatchback, with two 15-year-old girls chased down by members of the public and three other males still on the run.

The children’s court ruled the police case against the 17-year-old was weak and granted him bail, with conditions including a 7pm to 6am curfew.

Government minister Colin Brooks said police were doing a good job but called for courts to explain their decisions to the community.

“The community expects politicians, their elected representatives, to explain the decisions that we’re making,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“Victorians understand that the courts have a difficult and complex job but they’d like to understand how they come to a decision.”

Victorian Minister for Creative Industries Colin Brooks
Colin Brooks says Victorians need to understand how courts make decisions. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

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.

In response Crime Stoppers has launched a campaign to encourage young Victorians to dob in their mates.

The “Share If You Care” campaign, developed with students from Lyndhurst Secondary College in Cranbourne North, will be taken into schools and asks young people to share footage of youth crime with Crime Stoppers.

Crime Stoppers chief executive Stella Smith said young people can speak up without fear, with two-thirds of reports to it made online.

“Providing information to Crime Stoppers can make a huge difference and possibly change the outcome of an investigation, all while staying unknown,” she said.

But opposition youth justice spokesman Brad Battin criticised the campaign and the meeting, blaming the crisis on the government and its “broken” bail laws.

“The Allan Labor government is out of ideas to fix the youth justice crisis,” he said.