Teenage criminals to wear ankle bracelets under trial

Cassandra Morgan |

Victorian teenagers charged with serious crimes and bailed will be electronic monitored.
Victorian teenagers charged with serious crimes and bailed will be electronic monitored.

Teenagers charged with serious crimes in Victoria will wear electronic monitoring devices under a trial welcomed by police but denounced as a betrayal by others.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes announced the impending change on Wednesday in a bid to slash recidivism by a “small number” of reoffenders who were driving an increase in serious youth crimes in Victoria.

The trial of up to 50 young people would help ensure those charged with serious crimes followed their bail conditions, Ms Symes said.

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes
Jaclyn Symes says bail compliance isn’t optional and should be taken seriously. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

If young people defied their bail conditions, electronic ankle bracelet monitors would alert police, who could then apply for their bail to be revoked.

The cohort authorities are most concerned about are boys aged between 15 and 17 repeatedly charged with aggravated burglary offences, Ms Symes said.

“We know that young people on bail – if they stick to their conditions, if they engage in the programs, if they stay home at night when they’re supposed to – they’re not going to go on to commit further crimes,” she told reporters.

“There will be a range of factors that will be considered and of course, kids that have had significant trauma will be unlikely suitable for an electronic bracelet.”

The Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt said trialling electronic monitoring was sensible and reflected the gravity of youth crime and the trauma it created in the community.

“When everything else has failed, this is a way of protecting recidivist offenders from themselves,” he said.

Child rights organisation 54 Reasons said the ankle bracelet pitch was a gimmick and there was no proof electric monitoring reduced recidivism but could have the opposite effect.

“It’s stigmatising and nothing more than a Band-Aid, when evidence shows that governments should be spending their time on and investing in measures to address underlying causes instead,” 54 Reasons Victoria director Gai Campbell said.

Ms Symes also confirmed the government would scrap its proposal to take the onus off children to prove they deserved bail in a move denounced by the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service as “backwards and archaic”.

Reverse onus provisions put the responsibility on offenders, rather than prosecutors, on bail.

Ms Symes said children before courts were already passing the “exceptional circumstances” test to be granted bail 99 per cent of the time. 

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service said the ankle bracelets were a surveillance project on children not even found guilty.

The service was informed about the changes to planned reforms on Tuesday night after five years of consulting with the government.

It questioned how Victoria could walk down the path of treaty with a government “so willing to walk away from their commitments”.

“We are devastated that we trusted the Allan Government and they have completely betrayed abused and traumatised children in the hope it will win them votes at the next election,” legal service chief executive Nerita Waight said.

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam says she will fight the proposal in parliament.

She questioned whether police were writing Victoria’s justice policy, saying the pitch conjured images of Australia’s colonial past and shackled First Nations’ people.

Shadow Attorney-General Michael O’Brien suggested ankle bracelets would do nothing to deter repeat offenders, who would likely wear them as a “badge of honour”.

“They’re more likely to be swapping them like Taylor Swift friendship bracelets,” he said.

The government plans to introduce a youth justice bill, which will also raise Victoria’s minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12, in mid-2024.

The minimum age of criminal responsibility in the state is then slated to be increased to 14 by 2027.

The ankle bracelet technology would be rolled out alongside more intensive bail supervision to keep young people in education, work and other programs.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

Lifeline 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)