Attorney General defends new bail laws
QUEENSLAND Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath has defended the new youth justice laws credited with making it harder to hold kids behind bars, saying it's not what she saw with her own eyes during a brief and covert visit to Townsville this week.
It comes as Ms D'Ath copped criticism from the LNP for flying into the city, which is in the grips of a record-breaking crime surge, for a trip so under-the-radar that not even her colleague, Townsville MP Scott Stewart, knew about it.
But Ms D'Ath, who spent Tuesday sitting in on Townsville's Specialist High Risk Youth Court, the only court of its kind in Queensland, denied the trip was anything more than usual ministerial duties to see how that particular system was operating and what improvements, if any, needed to be made.
The Attorney-General's visit comes at a time when the State Government's new youth bail laws have come under fire from police and lawyers, who say the hastily written, knee-jerk reaction legislation has made it harder to keep a child behind bars, like in the case of an 11-year-old boy who was bailed 10 times in four months despite being charged with more than 50 offences.
Ms D'Ath said she did not speak to magistrates or stakeholders about the Youth Justice Act changes while in Townsville because those responsibilities were not in her portfolio, but after sitting in on 13 matters in the closed court, was of the opinion that the criticism of the new laws didn't reflect what she saw.
"What I've been hearing … is that somehow this legislation has led to more kids being released on bail," she said. "Without talking about other issues, the view that the amendments last year stopped kids being held on remand certainly wasn't what I saw."
She said most of the kids who appeared had been behind bars and were remanded in custody again.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, in Townsville yesterday, slammed Ms D'Ath for attempting to avoid scrutiny by not letting anyone know she was in town.
Burdekin MP Dale Last went further, calling it a "disgrace" and accused Ms D'Ath of burying her head in the sand on Townsville's crime issues.