Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition to the Queensland Government wanting laws around “reoffending juveniles” tightened after an expectant couple were killed in Brisbane.
Kate Leadbetter, 31, and Matty Field, 37, were hit by an allegedly stolen four-wheel-drive in Alexandra Hills on Tuesday.
The 17-year-old alleged driver from Waterford West in Logan, who was on bail at the time, is now facing murder charges.
He was remanded in custody on Wednesday and the case is due to return to the Children’s Court in March.
Queensland Police Service Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd told reporters that for offences such as murder, “normally the courts do not consider bail in any event but I can assure you that bail is being opposed by police and an affidavit to that effect has been prepared”.
“I understand that there’s been some initial reports about the juvenile being on bail for a large number of offences. 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,” he said.
“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.”
Judy Lindsay, ambassador for CARS (Citizens Against Road Slaughter), lost her 20-year-old daughter Hayley Russell in a crash with a drink driver in Alexandra Hills in 2009.
After the double fatal collision this week, she started a petition urging a further “clean up” of the state’s Youth Justice Act.
Signed by more than 50,000 people by Thursday morning, it urges law reform including longer penalties for reoffending juveniles and time in prison without parole.
“It would have made our communities safer for people like Hayley, Kate, Matty and their unborn child,” it reads.
“We will never see our loved ones that have lost their lives … we will never have grandchildren and never see them again.”
One signee wrote: “Doing adult crimes they need to face adult consequences.”
Kate’s aunty, Danielle Leadbetter, attended a vigil for the couple at the intersection on Wednesday night and expressed outrage that the alleged teen driver was on bail at the time.
“Enough is enough,” she said. “It’s 2021 and here we are again – two young lives are lost for a moment of thrills.
“Queenslanders need to get mad.
“No more loss of lives and no more families being killed because young offenders want a moment of fame.”
The latest tragedy has reignited the political debate in Queensland on tackling youth crime.
Appearing on breakfast TV on Thursday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she joins the families of the victims and the community on their quest for answers.
“All of the agencies will get to the bottom of what actually happened here but at the end of the day, two people have tragically lost their lives in suburban Brisbane,” she told Sunrise.
“No one wants to see that happen. I don’t want to see that happen, the community doesn’t want to see that happen.”
Changes to the state’s Youth Justice Act were passed last year and came into effect in July.
“New amendments to the Youth Justice Act 1992 make it clear that if a young person is a danger to the community they must be denied bail and kept in custody” the Department of Youth Justice states.
A new section of the legislation states a child “must” be kept in custody, rather than “may”, if the police or courts determine “there is an unacceptable risk of the child committing an offence that endangers the safety of the community, or the safety or welfare of a person, and the risk cannot be adequately reduced by making bail conditions”.
Ms Palaszczuk said the laws had been “strengthened”, making the “presumption against bail”.
“And the LNP, including (MP) Dan Purdie, voted against that. They did not support those tougher laws,” she said.
“I want answers just like everyone else as to why this young man was out on bail.
“There will be a coronial investigation. This young man now is facing murder charges so there will be a full court case.
“I don’t want to prejudice that court case but if there are any recommendations out of the coronial inquest to toughen laws even further, of course the Government will look at those laws.”
Earlier, Mr Purdie – a former child protection detective – described the system as “broken”.
“I had that role in 2015 when the Palaszczuk Labor Government took power,” he told Sunrise.
He claimed the laws available to police were “watered down”.
“They removed the offence for a juvenile to breach bail,” Mr Purdie said.
“They also made detention as a last resort. There’s no consequences, there’s no repercussions and subsequently there’s no deterrence.”
Queensland Opposition leader David Crisafulli said the laws “are a joke, to be frank”.
“What incentive is there for a young person to do the right thing when it’s not even an offence to breach your bail condition?” he told the program.
“Everyone deserves a second chance but there reaches a stage where it goes to a point where somebody needs a little bit of tough love. I think it’s fair and reasonable that when the second chance becomes the 12th chance, and the 15th chance and the 25th chance, the system is broken.”
Mr Crisafulli said they would be “asking the tough questions”.
“Because from all of this tragedy, there is a platform, it’s a terrible platform but we’ve already seen Danielle, who is the aunty (of Kate), and she’s using it to effect change,” he said.
“We intend to give every opportunity to make the changes that are needed because people deserve the right to be able to go out for a walk with their loved ones. Young people deserve the right to be able to raise a family. That’s what we’ll be fighting for, respectfully and decently, in the weeks and months ahead.”