Young crims pack courts at staggering rate

 

THE number of young criminals fronting Townsville courts has risen sharply over the last five years, with the city recording the highest number of cases in regional Queensland.

Since 2016/17, there has been a 62 per cent increase in the number of defendants who have appeared in a local court, with a staggering 1370 defendants appearing before a magistrate or judge.

However the way the data is recorded, each appearance by repeat offenders is counted as a new defendant, which means there is no way to tell the actual number of children that appeared in the city's courts from the Magistrate Court of Queensland Annual Report.

In 2018-19, there were fewer appearances with just 1095 youth defendants in Townsville courts. This is an increase of 275 appearances.

Emergency services on scene after juveniles in an alleged stolen Prado rammed a police vehicle. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Emergency services on scene after juveniles in an alleged stolen Prado rammed a police vehicle. Picture: Alix Sweeney

In the last year, Townsville's courts have seen more young defendants than Beenleigh (1266), Southport (1172), Maroochydore (663), Caboolture (414), Ipswich (994), Cairns (1303) and Mackay (222).

The 2016-17 annual report found 843 defendants appearing in court and in the 2017-18 report it was 1076 defendants.

Children appearing in court make up almost 13 per cent of defendants in Townsville while the city as a whole makes up for almost 6 per cent of the state's total number of charges dished out that appear before the court.

The number of charges young defendants faced in court increased between 2018-19 and 2019-20 from 2605 to 3412.

Emergency services on scene after juveniles in an alleged stolen Prado rammed a police vehicle. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Emergency services on scene after juveniles in an alleged stolen Prado rammed a police vehicle. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Between 2016-17 and 2019-20, the number of charges increased almost 60 per cent.

Mundingburra MP Les Walker said the state government had worked to tackle youth crime issues at its core and break the cycle.

"We've always known Townsville faces certain issues - that's why we had Townsville Community Champion Major General (retd) Stuart Smith conduct his review and why Townsville has a Murri Court, the High Risk Youth Court and a specialist DV court as well as funding for support and diversionary services," Mr Walker said.

The dedicated High Risk Youth Court (HRYC) was introduced in 2017 as part of the Townsville Community Youth Response.

Mundingburra MP Les Walker. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Mundingburra MP Les Walker. Picture: Alix Sweeney

In 2019-20, 59 young people appeared in HRYC, 21 more than the year before.

In the 2016-17 period, 16 young people were referred to the high risk youth court, and 17 in the following year.

This is a near 270 per cent increase over four years.

The government committed $3.3m over four years to the Department of Justice and Attorney-General to support HRYC and address recommendations from the 2018 Townsville Voice report. Extra funding was also provided to the Townsville Community Justice Group for cultural enhancements to the HRYC program.

The court is designed to deal with kids between 10 and 17 who are identified as being repeat offenders and have multiple factors associated with high risk of future offending.

Young offenders are referred to this court from Townsville Children's Court.

caitlan.charles@news.com.au

Originally published as Young crims pack courts at staggering rate


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