The Palaszczuk government says it will change youth justice laws if needed as calls intensify for tougher bail conditions in the wake of the tragic death of a pregnant woman and her partner hit by an alleged stolen car.
Kate Leadbetter’s aunt made a tearful and desperate plea for change on Wednesday night at the roadside vigil in Brisbane where the two were allegedly struck by a teen police allege was intoxicated behind the wheel.
Police allege the Land Cruiser slammed into a truck at speed before rolling into Ms Leadbetter and her partner Matty Field, who were walking their dogs in Alexandra Hills on Australia Day.
According to police, a 17-year-old, alleged to have been behind the wheel of the 4WD, fled the scene on foot but was later apprehended. He has since been charged with the couple’s murder and a raft of driving offences.
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Following the tragic incident, the family and wider community was infuriated when it was alleged the juvenile was out on bail at the time in relation to prior driving offences.
On Thursday morning the focus turned to the Premier’s youth justice policies that Liberal-National MP and former child protection detective Dan Purdie said were “watered down” when Ms Palaszczuk’s Labor government gained power in 2015.
“They removed the offence for a juvenile to breach bail,” he told Sunrise. “They also made detention a last resort.”
Mr Purdie insists the policy changes led to a “youth crime epidemic” in the Sunshine State as he called on the tragic death of the expecting couple to be used as a platform for change.
“The system is broken at the moment,” he said.
But Annastacia Palaszczuk cited the change her government made in 2020 to tighten laws where there was a presumption against bail, turning the blame onto the court system.
“There’s questions that need to be asked about why the laws weren’t adhered to,” she told reporters.
“What happened to Kate and Matthew is an absolute tragedy. It’s horrific — we want answers, the family wants answers, the community wants answers and I want answers.”
Police and Corrective Services Minister Mark Ryan said the changes made by the government last year had resulted in more juveniles being remanded in custody.
“But if laws need to change to make intentions clearer and to ensure community safety is the priority, then of course we’ll look at that,” he told reporters.
“And if the evidence stacks up, and if the evidence is there to support those good ideas, then of course we’ll do everything we can to implement those good ideas.”
Assistant Police Commissioner Bryan Codd refused to reveal details about the alleged offender’s bail conditions, as is standard legal practice, but said the reporting in the media on the juvenile’s conditions were false.
“I understand that there’s been some initial reports about the juvenile being on bail for a large number of offences,” he said.
“I can advise that some of that reporting is not accurate, but unfortunately I am not able to go into any great detail about any history or any interaction that juvenile may have with any authorities.
“His history and any interactions that he may have had, as is the case with anybody with the justice system, will be reviewed with partner agencies as a matter of course.”
The youth justice bail policy debate rages as a petition urging tougher penalties for reoffending juveniles gathers steam and comes after Kate’s aunt, Danielle Leadbetter, delivered a tearful plea at a roadside vigil for the couple demanding the Premier get tougher on youth offenders.
“Enough is enough,” she said.
“It’s 2021 and here we are again — two young lives are lost”
“Queenslanders need to get mad.
“No more loss of lives and no more families being killed.”