Sunday, November 28, 2021

Town divided over new measures to tackle youth crime

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The town is divided over the NT Government’s new measures to tackle youth crime which will see young people who breach bail locked up.

The automatic revocation of bail will apply to young people who reoffend while on bail, breach curfew or fail to attend court, for example.

Police will have extended powers to use electronic monitoring on young people and powers to breath test youth who are behind the wheel of a car.

Broken in door
Costly living: A resident came home to find her door smashed in this week. She said on the Action for Tennant Creek Facebook site it happened between 8am and 11am on Kittle Street. She says she is now considering leaving the town.

Young offenders to fail to complete diversion will be hauled back before the courts which will only be able to refer youth to diversion if they have not previously been considered for such.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the crack-down was a bid to break the cycle of crime and keep Territorians safe.
He said less bail, more consequences for offenders and more visibility of youth on bail would make the work of police easier and the community safer.

The Government plans to throw in $5 million for ‘additional new youth remand infrastructure’ to cater for the extra children who will be detained.

The sweeping changes have been a hot topic on social media since they were announced on Monday.

The NT Government is also tackling the root causes of crime across the NT – including poor housing and alcohol abuse.

A spokesperson said they are building more houses than ever in remote communities, and our alcohol reforms aimed at cutting alcohol related crime and antisocial behaviour and harm across the NT are working.

Other Territory Labor Government initiatives to tackle crime since 2016 include:

• Clear and Immediate Consequences for Repeat Offenders: including the establishment of a community work program where offenders clean graffiti and clearing weeds and landscaping.
• Targeting Ringleaders: we are introducing legislation this week that targets adults who recruit youth to commit offences – punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.
• Family Responsibility and Accountability: returning Family Responsibility Agreements and Orders – allowing agreements to be made and courts to order families of troubled youths to participate in family group conferencing and counselling, education or training, housing management and financial counsel-ling or on-country programs.
• Strengthening the Voice of Victims: victim/offender conferencing expanded to all regions, increased funding for financial relief of victims (such as resecuring premises and vehicles, clean-up, and security assessments).
• Expansion of the Back on Track Program: increasing boot camps and on country work camps across the Territory, behavioural programs and increased training and education for at-risk youths.
• Community Safety: retainment of police levels through regular recruitment programs, expansion of the School Based Policing Program, increase CCTV with a focus on suburban locations, increase CCTV monitoring.
• Penalties for Property Crime: we are reviewing of penalties for all property offences including unlawful entries, unlawful use of motor vehicles.
• Supporting Our Police: we have put more police on the beat than ever before, and given them the best resources possible, including a record budget, more CCTV, and built new police stations.

Barkly MLA Steve Edgington said the NT Government’s response was just more humiliating political spin lacking basic detail and substance.

“It has clearly been cobbled together in the last week in a desperate attempt to salvage what little dignity Labor has left following A Current Affairs airing of the Chief Minister’s crime shame,” said Mr Edgington.

“And it won’t even be ready until May at the earliest. Not good enough. The Opposition has listened to residents and businesses who have had enough of the revolving door of repeat offending and that’s we’re introduced, on urgency, the Bail Amendment Bill 2021 in Parliament. We had our legislation drafted and presented and ready to be implemented immediately after it was passed.

“Not only did the NT Government reject that, they rejected a whole range of legislation to support those immediate changes.

“May is too far away and now there will be more victims and break-ins before action.

“The NT Labor Government is too busy playing political games – the opportunity was there and they rejected that opportunity.

“Again, plenty of talk and no action from Gunner.”

The new measures being developed for May sittings

Automatic revocation of bail

Bail is a privilege not a right. If a young person commits a serious breach of bail – their bail will be revoked and they will be taken into remand. A serious breach of bail will include re-offending while on bail, breaching certain electronic monitoring conditions and curfew, failure to attend court, and failing to complete youth diversion.

Ability to record breach of bail antecedents

Judges will now know if and how many times a youth has breached bail to make the best sentencing decisions. It will serve exactly the same purpose as the old breach of bail policy, but significantly lessen the amount of paperwork for police.

Toughen the Traffic Act to hold young people accountable

This will enable young people behind the wheel of a car to be breath tested the same as adults. Recognising the importance of time when doing a breath test, amendments will be made to the Youth Justice Act to allow police (after making reasonable attempts to have a responsible adult be present) to carry out a test. (August Sittings)

Expanding the list of prescribed offences

The Bail Act will be amended to expand the list of ‘prescribed offences’. This means there is NO presumption of bail given to offences such as unlawful entry, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, assault of a worker, assault of police and other serious offences.

Amend section 64 of the Youth Justice Act

Youth must face consequences – if a young offender fails to complete their diversion, they will have to go back before the courts and have their case reconsidered. The amendment will also remove the issue of having courts referring young people back to Police for consideration for diversion. It will mean courts can only refer youth under this section where the youth have not previously been considered for diversion.

Expansion of electronic monitoring by police

Police will now have more circumstances where they will be able to immediately place a monitoring device on a young person who is alleged to have committed a crime. For example, this means police will immediately be able to place a monitoring device on a young person who has committed a crime. Police will also be able to consider whether electronic monitoring is appropriate for use during police diversion.

Tennant & District Times 26 March 2021

This article appeared in the Tennant & District Times, 26 March 2021.

Related story: Bad youth, bad youth: What you Gunner do?

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