Legislative Council: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Repeat Offenders

The Hon. B.R. HOOD (15:14): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Attorney-General regarding repeat offenders.

Leave granted

The Hon. B.R. HOOD: Last week, on ABC Radio Adelaide in a discussion on youth crime, police commissioner Grant Stevens expressed a level of frustration over the fact that SAPOL were having to deal with the same repeat offenders. The police commissioner said:

If there are offenders that are being released on bail or receiving relatively light sentences, as long as it's not the fault of the police officer having not done their job properly then we just need to accept that.

Aside from the Attorney-General's announcement today to introduce legislation to punish adult ringleaders who recruit children to commit crime, my questions to the Attorney-General are:

1. Considering the comments from the police commissioner, does the Attorney-General believe that repeat youth offenders often receive lenient sentences and bail agreements to the detriment of the safety of the community?

2. Has the Attorney met with the police commissioner to directly discuss concerns over repeat youth offenders being released on bail or receiving light sentences?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:15): I thank the honourable member for his question and certainly it is one that is worthy of consideration. I thank the honourable member for his plaudits for the announcement that the government has made today in relation to legislation we will bring forward that will seek to create the toughest standalone offence of its kind anywhere in Australia for adults who seek to engage children in criminal activity.

They will create a new standalone offence with a maximum jail period of 15 years, or if the offence that they are recruiting children to commit has a higher maximum penalty it will be that penalty, whichever is greater. That offence will be regardless of whether the child is actually convicted of the crime. In the end, it will be the recruiting of the child to commit the crime that carries that offence. We think that will send a very strong message to those sorts of thugs and criminals who would seek to have children commit their crimes.

I regularly have meetings with the police commissioner. I think the honourable member would understand that I will not detail, and it would not be expected that I detail, what we speak about in those meetings and the results of those discussions; however, I do appreciate that I have that avenue to raise issues that are of concern to the police commissioner as I have that avenue also of raising issues with the police commissioner that I hear about from people in the community.

There is further work to do I think in terms of children who find themselves in contact with the criminal justice system. One of the things we are doing at the moment as a government is a discussion paper that we have released that is looking at other ways we can intervene in children's lives. A criminal justice response may not always be the best way. We are looking at therapeutic interventions, particularly family supports, for young people to try to stop the very young children who find themselves in contact with the criminal justice system becoming the older children and then the young adults who find their way into the criminal justice system. It is an issue that we are taking seriously and looking at addressing.