‘Adult time’ plan for kids won’t stop crime: advocates

Fraser Barton |

Juvenile crime in Queensland has hit a level that people are protesting against the government.
Juvenile crime in Queensland has hit a level that people are protesting against the government.

A Queensland opposition plan for children to serve adult sentences for serious crimes has been dismissed as a “purely political response” that will not stop reoffending.

Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli unveiled the policy at the weekend’s LNP convention, announcing that juveniles convicted of serious crimes would be treated as harshly as adults if he was elected premier in October.

However, he has come under fire for the “adult crime, adult time” pitch with advocate groups saying it will not make the community safer.

LNP leader David Crisafulli.
David Crisafulli launched his youth crime policy at the LNP convention on the weekend. (Russell Freeman/AAP PHOTOS)

“It is a purely political response which doesn’t provide a meaningful response,” Youth Advocacy Centre CEO Katherine Hayes told AAP.

“There is no evidence which shows that longer sentences reduce offending.”

Under the LNP plan, youths found guilty of crimes such as murder, manslaughter, grievous bodily harm and dangerous operation and unlawful use of a motor vehicle would be sentenced as adults.

Ms Hayes said children were already receiving consequences for committing crimes in Queensland amid a perceived spike in youth offending.

The state government has introduced a raft of laws ahead of the election, with contingencies allowing children to be kept in police watch houses and adult prisons controversially passed.

The Child Death Review report released in March revealed Queensland locked up more children than the rest of the country.

“No other state comes close,” Ms Hayes said.

“So young offenders are receiving consequences, they are receiving custodial sentences – to say they are untouchable is false.”

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties said the LNP policy lacked appropriate consultation and detail, calling it “sloganeering”.

The council’s vice-president Terry O’Gorman said the opposition leader should instead look at issues outlined in an auditor-general’s report into Queensland’s juvenile justice system.

The report last month found more had to be done to reduce crime by serious repeat juvenile offenders, with youths “not always” receiving the rehabilitation or education they needed.

The report noted factors such as “constant” government restructures and law changes had hindered efforts to reduce crime by serious repeat offenders.

However, Ms Hayes backed the opposition’s pitch to provide funding for a 12-month post-release plan for every juvenile released from detention.

A 72-hour plan is currently provided, however, the auditor-general report found it was “not always” prepared and their quality and consistency varied significantly.

“It is great in terms of the 12 month period of support post-release,” Ms Hayes said of the opposition’s crime policy.

“That’s fantastic because that is a real danger period.”

However, the Justice Reform Initiative said the boost to post-release care for children would be undermined by harsher penalties introduced under the “adult crime, adult time” plan.

“Treating children as adults in the criminal justice system will lead to more crime, not less,” the initiative’s Dr Mindy Sotiri said.

“(It) will serve to increase the likelihood of entrenched criminal justice system involvement and adult imprisonment.”