The government of Queensland, Australia Thursday passed a series of youth-focused crime laws, contained in the Strengthening Community Safety Bill 2023, despite three days of debate on the matter and strong opposition by human rights advocates.
The bill—which will be applicable to youths aged 10 to 17 years of age—includes a myriad of new offenses which had previously only been relevant to adult offenders, such as breaching bail. The bill also creates a new aggravating factor for car thieves who post footage of their offenses on social media, and allows for ankle monitoring to be applied to those as young as 15.
Human Rights Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission Lorraine Finlay wrote a letter to the Queensland Parliament committee considering the Strengthening Community Safety Bill to express concerns about the proposed youth justice reforms. In it, she warned of the potential human rights violations, saying:
While we acknowledge the importance of keeping the community safe and addressing criminal behaviour, we have serious concerns about the human rights impacts of these proposed reforms….Violating the human rights of young offenders does not equate to justice for victims of crimes.
However, some Queensland residents appear to support the controversial approach. A recent petition, signed by 9,451 residents, was presented to the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, to draw attention to an increase in carjacking, stolen vehicles, property destruction and theft by juvenile perpetrators under the age of 18. The petitioners requested that existing penalties be applied to young offenders, arguing:
Breaking conditions of bail needs to be an offence for juvenile offenders. Offenders under the age of 18 cannot do community service. New deterrents need to be put into place and Police given more powers to deter offenders and enforce new laws.