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HomeIssue 51Stop giving young crims bail, says councillor

Stop giving young crims bail, says councillor

Juvenile delinquents are still running riot despite pledges by the new government – in office now for well over than 100 days – to get tough on them, says Councillor Steve Brown, a long time former member of the CLP.
He says little will change unless the practice of granting bail is stopped, and youths accused of crimes are remanded in custody, preferably in secure remote youth camps where they are taught skills and cannot commit further crimes while the slow legal process takes its course.
Cr Brown says he and well-known youth worker Graham Ross have campaign for such camps for many years.
“This continuing churning through the system, this revolving door system, simply had to stop. These kids think they can do what they like, which puts them into danger as much as their victims,” says Cr Brown.
“It is only a matter of time until something horrible happens during home invasions.”
“It was Terry Mills who lectured us on the Wildman River camp, saying they should be right throughout the NT.
“This has to start now. These camps don’t cost a fortune – they are just camps.
“I have had a proposal before the government and the town council since the 2012 election. It’s high time something is done.”
Detective Superintendent Brent Warren told the Alice Springs News Online that of six young people arrested in the new year, a 17 year old was on bail, a 17 year old and a 15 year old were both subject to warrants, after failing to answer their bail, and a 14 year old was subject to a Supervised Good Behavior Bond.
In a media release on January 2, police said these youths included a 14 year old male now charged with unlawful entry and unlawful use of a motor vehicle.
Two 14 year-old males and a 16 year-old male have been charged with unlawful use of a motor vehicle, aggravated unlawful entry and stealing.  One 14 year-old was also charged with breaching bail conditions.
Two males aged 14 and 17 were arrested for interfering with a vehicle in East Side overnight.
Money stolen from the vehicle was allegedly found in the pocket of the 17 year-old.


  1. While I agree with you Steve that these issues and our particularly high levels of youth crime are unacceptable I think the short term answer is in policing at this stage. Bail is debatable not only because of the overcrowding already in our system but statistics do not show very good rehabilitative qualities emerging from young releasees.
    I think we could better utilise full home detention as that gives us an opportunity to also address family dysfunction through a raft of strategies including some form of mandatory education/training for the detainee.
    The fact that all these people you speak of were arrested is a good sign. A culprit who broke into my premises over a year ago was also apprehended recently.
    In the longer term I think a camp is a good idea and applaud the work Graham Ross does and indeed, your dedicated support of his concept.
    However, I don’t think its Council’s responsibility other than supportive lobbying (lack of resources and other priorities) but it should be looked at very seriously by both the NT and Federal Governments.
    Having had my brother working at Wildman River there were still issues of the same kids returning and returning and going onto grown up jail.
    We have to get better at release strategies that include life / work pathways and not just set them free into the same dysfunctional environment from whence they came.
    I see this regularly with the Community Work Orders. I hope the CLP government looks at this issue holistically with extensive reviews of all departments (Justice, Education, Employment, Health, Housing etc) in the interests of a collaborative approach.
    If they have to take a bit of time to do that then so be it. We have continually got it wrong, wrong, wrong over many successive governments (including Federal), policies, rules and regulations. Lets get it right this time. I think we are all “over it”.

  2. All good. Cannot wait for Steve and fellow elected councillors to reneg on their election platforms.

  3. You ALLLLLLL were crying wolfFFF you all at the ALICE SPRINGS, not the NT elections, You ALL were going to solve the crime issues. YOU all, Steve, Chancey, et al???? And what? Where are you eh?? Played the ole crime and race game eh??? Fat lot of good it’s done. Still no worries … Let’s wait for next election till the time to cry wolf…

  4. “Gees Charlie”, not sure what that’s all about. Elected, unelected, before or after the event, there was nothing then, or now that an individual can do, except to try and win the arguments.
    Get community on side with what has to be done. In my case I have been unable to win any committed support from fellow councillors, most of whom wish to see what the New Territory Government will do and are prepared to wait for that.
    And up until now, apart from releasing my Town Harmony discussion paper, so have I, for if we are to progress on this issue much is dependent upon our new government who hopefully have some ideas of their own. My comments re this article are simply to put government on notice that time is going by!
    It’s time for action. I am aware that they have committed some funds to Bush Mob but it’s not enough and it is not backed up by an overall plan of approach which will obviously have to include the appropriate Legislative changes that will allow these of policies to be implemented.
    Meanwhile everybody, lives are being destroyed! Lives are at risk! And our community is once again coming apart. Liz as you know I value your judgement on many things but when you have a large portion of crime being committed by youth on bail it is time for that bail to “cease”!
    Failure to do so is completely demoralising for our police who are rendered all but powerless in stopping the mayhem because we simply tip arrested trouble makers back out on the streets only hours after they have been arrested for some other crime!
    Once arrested they have to be removed from circulation and kept out of circulation until the matter has been dealt with, that is one of the chief aims of the proposed youth camp. The construction of this facility is a whole of community issue, it is our collective responsibility and that most certainly includes council. Failure is our collective liability our community will pay the price, nothing is more certain than that!
    Mandatory education, employment readiness are all part of our youth camp proposal, home detention most certainly is not!
    It is dysfunctional, disinterested or non existent homes that are responsible for these neglected youth. “Home”, if you want to call it that, “they don’t”! Is not the place for them! My call is to give them a place they can identify with and perhaps eventually be able to call that place home for it will provide all the comforts and disciplines that a good home should. For most of these youths that will be a whole new experience!
    Charlie, you are one of those who can, has and should contribute, make an effort, make some useful contribution to the discussion I am always interested in your opinion but it is simply not a contribution at all to stand on the sidelines and throw stones.
    Let’s get things happening. Alice Springs people, ring and nag a polly today!
    Editor, could you add a link to this comment that will bring up my Alice Springs Town Harmony “A New Dawn” discussion paper [ED … here it is] – let’s see if we can generate some further useful discussion maybe generate a little forward moving impetus!

  5. Something needs to be done. I and a friend watched parents walking past houses with their kids, kids enter people’s yards and take things, parents do nothing.
    So how is this going to work with home detention and dysfunctional families.
    They watch it happen.
    My house was broken into in 2011, and still to this day, I have had no-one caught for it (despite fingerprints being taken).
    Knowing from what yard / house they entered my yard, none of my things were returned. Home detention does nothing but gives them the okay to go and do it again.

  6. Once arrested and charged, all need be bailed out.
    If re-arrested whilst on bail then Magistrates need consider their removal from circulation given their re-arrest is potential breach of bail conditions.
    Elsewhere are comments on how being detained may not be such a deterrent, rather improved living conditions of three good meals each day, reasonable living conditions, and comradeship.
    Might required participation in some organized youth bush walks be available quicker than construction of proposed camps?
    Such walks may be seen as punishment, unless chosen as alternatives to detention – offered by Magistrates, which appear more attractive.
    Alternatives likely need some legislation.

  7. Clearly we need to do more to stop children from breaching bail conditions and committing further offences while on bail.
    However, abolishing bail is not the way to achieve this. Bail is a feature of a justice system in which we are all presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
    Furthermore, if we abolish bail, large numbers of children will end up being remanded in custody for long periods of time, often when it is not necessary.
    This will place additional burdens on costly youth justice custodial facilities. It will also undermine community safety as research shows that exposing children to custody increases the likelihood that they will engage in further offending.
    What is really needed is more options for supporting children on bail.
    Police and the courts should have the confidence to refer children on bail to properly resourced support services that will support them to comply with bail conditions as well as to address the many issues that they face.
    As Steve Brown has correctly pointed out, these services should focus on education, employment and more stable accommodation for these children.
    Such approaches to supporting children on bail have produced promising results in other Australian states and overseas.

  8. Yes Steve thanks for your comments. I recall the tone of the ASTC elections – focused so heavily on crime, so my comments are illustrative of my own frustrations. Steve I think you are getting stuck on this proposal. You spell out some excellent suggestions such as accommodation needs, parenting issues, revolving doors etc.
    But your proposed Youth Camps already exist through services such as the Alice Springs Youth Hub, Bush Mob, Tangentyere, Congress the Police et al. They are doing some great work in challenging circumstances so finding a balance between resourcing current successes, learning from weaknesses and critiquing new proposals is needed. The bail system needs to include mandatory to the services above. Let’s improve the way these work. Maybe decreasing the competition for Youth Services delivery could be a start.
    After all if we only had one or two shops we could monitor them better and maybe their successes and failures better highlighted. A bit like the Job Network system where a smaller amount of providers are scrutinized to deliver better services regularly.
    Your Youth Camps are nearly there Steve, but maybe not in the form you envisage.

  9. Your comments confuse me Charlie Dick as I am not sure what election platform you are speaking of … but I’d love the opportunity to respond!
    I do actually agree it’s time for bail to cease Steve … but we don’t have the infrastructure to back it.
    No camps and the jails are full! And I reckon its better to prevent those kids from entering the system in the first place.
    As John Adams says, exposing children to custody increases the likelihood that they will engage in further offending. Yes, Mazzie, “Home Detention” will allow some to go and do it again once they get their ankle bracelet off – but you will NEVER convince me these kids aren’t doing it again and again now after being released from detention / jail – bailed or NOT!
    I had another breakin here just last night! I deal with these issues more than most with at least three or four incidents a week. It’s 1.00am and I have just done a boundary run tonight because I can hear (but not see) the drunks fighting.

  10. A good indication of just how entrenched the issue of juvenile delinquency has become in Central Australia is the fact that Graham Ross has been working with troubled youth since the 1970s. In other words, he has been persevering with his work for youth over a period of time now spanning three generations (despite a period from late 1995 onwards when Mr Ross withdrew from youth work for a time because it had become too dangerous – reported in the Alice Springs News in December that year).
    Similarly, Barry Abbott and his family have been working with troubled youth since the 1960s.
    Despite decades of hand-wringing by government and various organisations and prominent identities about dealing with youth issues, there is clearly no end in sight to resolving these problems.
    I have the greatest respect for people like Graham Ross and the Abbotts for their lifetimes’ dedication to their work for youth but I think realistically we face the prospect of these problems continuing unabated well after these worthy individuals can no longer carry on.
    Generally I agree with Steve Brown and Graham Ross’s proposal to deal with this issue, I think such facilities would go a long way to helping to resolve this problem.
    The only difficulty I foresee is that of maintaining support from government over a sufficient period of time to make a worthwhile difference; unfortunately these sorts of initiatives are usually undermined by governments (both Territory and Federal, and of either political persuasion) changing their policy priorities in terms of ongoing and sufficient funding which invariably disrupt and destroy the good work already undertaken. Our system of governance and administration has a very great deal to answer for.

  11. As a whole of community, we need to focus on prevention measures in the first place so less people choose to commit crime rather than contribute positively to their environments. I fully understand that this will take time but if we make it a priority via health, education and community action, the future looks better.
    It’s cumulative social attitudes that have sanctioned these behaviours … people living in a dependent society that has evolved for well over half a century where it’s up to “the taxpayers” to provide them with income for achieving and contributing nothing but pain to their community.
    Time for the “gravy train” to be over and people actively encouraged to take responsibility for their behaviour … and the consequences that come with those behaviour choices. Education and employment are the key ingredients for development. Irrespective of culture, background or socio-economic status, people with no connection to schools, training or the workplace have too much idle time on their hands.
    People are not innately born with these poor behaviour choices … they learn them. They learn to get drunk and not be responsible. They learn to skip school and not conform with societal norms. They learn to be unemployed. In Alice Springs, there is enough employment for all who seek it. If an able adult doesn’t have a job, they don’t want one.
    Many people living with a disability have jobs and contribute to there own well-being. Let’s work together to better evolve our community that teaches the positive skills choices to our young and old alike.
    Seems like the commentators here are on a similar “page”. Let’s get the action happening in cohort with government (all levels), industry, commerce and positive social / community groups to make this happen. The world we build is the world we get!

  12. Patricia Karvelas has reported in today’s Australian that a national study has found “a severe lack of bail support programs to keep charged juveniles in the community. Judicial officers across the nation are concerned there is a major under-utilisation of bail for juvenile offenders, with indigenous children missing out the most. In Queensland, the NT, NSW, WA and Victoria there is growing concern from magistrates and others about the lack of granting of bail.”
    Karvelas says the National Assessment of Australia’s Children’ Courts “attributed the low rates of bail to a lack of appropriate accommodation for young people who may be homeless or have no safe home. The study – led by Allan Borowski from the Department of Social Work and Social Policy at La
    Trobe University, with Rosemary Sheehan from Monash University’s Department of Social Work – found there was a severe lack of bail support programs to maintain young people in the community, an especially acute problem in regional and remote locations.”
    As occurs in Alice Springs, the National Assessment says “this results in unnecessarily high remand rates, despite the low likelihood of receiving a custodial sentence and a small proportion being acquitted. The report found young people can often be remanded for lengthy periods.”
    “Where bail is granted but then breached, often due to such unrealistic bail expectations as maintaining a curfew and attending school, the consequences can include long journeys to distant secure (and sometimes adult) facilities,” it found.
    Professor Borowski said lack of suitable bail options for many juveniles was a a very important and urgent issue.
    “Where bail is an option it’s not always the realistic option because the courts need to assure themselves that the kids will front up in court when their case is brought to court …
    “So there is just a shortage of bail options and it means kids that might otherwise have been released into the community had there been what we call bail hostels or supportive bail arrangements available, rather than kids being returned to their original communities or families where things may not be all that supportive at all,” he said.
    “Now these kids are remanded and a lot of these kids who are remanded are not always necessarily found guilty, yet the courts have to judge whether they are guilty or not.”
    Karvelas reports that “Professor Borowski said it varied with jurisdiction but there were many incidences with children remanded in custody, often for extended periods, only to be found innocent.
    “The report says despite the problems there have been some recent bail initiatives. For instance, in 2010 a pilot intensive bail support program was established serving Melbourne’s north-west region. Steps are also underway in NSW to change bail laws in order to reduce the numbers remanded.”

  13. I have lived in this town for some considerable time and I have to say that this is the worst it has ever been.
    We now have a group of teenage Aboriginal kids who are absolutely out of control and who fear nothing. I witnessed a break in the other day where the offenders were disturbed by the neighbours who rang the police.
    One of the offenders then decided to threaten the neighbour with physical assault and was backed up by a dozen of his mates who suddenly appeared from nowhere. When told that the police were on their way the response was “so what – what are they going to do about it.” They then sauntered off down the road without a care in the world.
    On another occasion about 20 youths formed a barricade across a road and when an oncoming motorist slowed down, his car was trashed.
    Of course had the motorist driven through the group and some of them were either injured or killed, all hell would have broken out. What do you think you would have done, particularly if you had your wife and young children in the car?
    I don’t know whether any of these offenders were out on bail or not and I do understand the notion of presumed innocence.
    However, once they are brought before the courts and convicted, then the full force of the law should come down on them, particularly for repeat offenders.
    Adult jails are obviously not the answer for teenagers under the age of 18, however a remote camp where they are taught to respect themselves, their culture and other people’s property sounds like a damn good idea. A bit of “tough love” might work wonders.
    In any event something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now, otherwise this beautiful town is doomed.

  14. I agree with many of your comments, @ Bob and John, but let me make it clear I am not referring when talking about not granting bail to a Youth who has come before the Courts for the first time, who has the support of a family willing to post bail. I am talking about a repetitive offenders who are coming before the system sometimes several times in a week and being granted bail, something that even the previous Labor Government promised to address yet we see it continue.
    John, using the word bail and justice in the same sentence under these circumstances I see as a perfect example of an oxymoron. It is not justice, either to the child or the community, to return an obviously neglected child to the streets, putting both the child and community at extreme risk!
    I see the argument for justice under those circumstances as a rather pathetic excuse for an abject avoidance of responsibility!
    Something John, that history will not judge kindly. Nor do I see children being handed from part time care in one youth organisation to part time care in another as any kind of solution.
    Whether eventually found guilty or not, these kids desperately need full time custodial care. It’s no good taking kids under your wing in the daytime while they roam the streets at night! There is no good taking them for a camp or a holiday jaunt for a few weeks then returning them to the streets, showing them what they could have and taking it away. The obvious answer of how to get back there being to re-offend!
    I’m not stuck on the form this intuition must take, Charlie, but I am absolutely stuck on the need for a singular institution to take up responsibility as a good parent and do their utmost to give these kids some kind of chance at living a decent, fulfilling life.
    I agree also with your points, Charlie and Paul, that the “second” breach of Bail sees mandatory assignment to the aforementioned central Organisation.
    There is no risk of an injustice to some poor kid offending for the first time here, we know who they are, the police know them better than their own parents.
    When my wife was doing some brush up legal studies a while ago one of her case studies was of a youth who had been before the system as a juvenile and now into adulthood over 180 times!
    Let’s stop arguing about the need for such an institution and push our government, our community, into action. As Alex said, lean on them very hard for continuity because it is going to take continuous committed care over many years to bring about the change that our entire community clamours for.

  15. I don’t really know what the answer is pertaining to these juveniles who are continually arrested and then let out on bail to re-offend time and time again.
    We live in a cottage in the “peaceful” grounds of the Old Timers Village and in the early hours of Wednesday, 19th December 2012 we had our home broken into whilst we slept.
    Every drawer in every room had been searched (although must say was not trashed).
    It was obvious that these offenders were just looking for cash and car keys, and they were successful.
    They entered our bedroom and stole two handbags containing about $300 cash, all of my cards, i.e. pension, medicare, driver’s licence, key card and also the car keys to our brand new car, which was stolen and found trashed inside and out two days later.
    The culprits were arrested and their ages range between 13 and 15 years, but are now out on bail. I feel sorry for the police as they are fighting a losing battle, their hands are tied.
    Both my husband and I would like to thank the police involved with our home invasion, they have been very kind, professional and have kept us up to date on the proceedings following this incident, also like to thank Tony O’Brien Security, his staff and also Mary Miles (Director of Nursing at Old Timers) for her thoughtfulness, kindness and professionalism, and of course to our friends and neighbours who have offered help and transport during this stressful time. Thank you!

  16. Phil Walcott is right, there is work for everyone if they want it. Unfortunately, for many illiterate and inexperienced indigenous people the only way to get a job is to commit a crime and get into one of the prison work gangs.

  17. Warren Mundine: “We are looking at the wrong end. We’re looking at the jail end of it, of the process,” he said.
    “What we should be doing is the complete opposite. We need to be putting diversionary programs in that focus on keeping kids in the classroom and getting into jobs.”

  18. Something needs to be done. People are going to be taken things into their own hands as the kids know the police can not do anything.
    Two cars stolen and one set fire to this week, scratched in the bonnet of one was the words F(full word) the police … so now you know they don’t care about the police as they know they can not be touched.
    The police even told the owner they cannot do anything because of their ages. Surely their parents should be made accountable … it is starting to get a bit out of control, people.

  19. Failing to address the problem when responding to John Elferink’s remarks the ABC states “the Territory has the nation’s highest incarceration rate per head of population of both Indigenous young people and adults”.
    This ABC contribution reinforces faulty ideas those tagged A need do time…
    ABC and media need concentrate more on the under-educated, drug-addicted, mental-health-issue statistical groups both in community and prison populations, these come from all racial tags.
    Media can provide detailed reports on why some statistical variations occur, to explain why some cultural groups regularly appear under-represented in prisons, how the relevant tags are not racial.
    Rather than playing changeless racial tag games, focus on our changeable details.
    Government has long taken on the role to concentrate on raising average education standards.
    Stats are of NT adults, for children reaching leave school age, without basic education “essential standards” particularly of literacy and numeracy in English.
    Government needs address those failing to achieve here, work on raising them to more acceptable levels, wherever, whenever they can.
    English is the basic language of Australia, essential for the wide futures available. After English other languages raise the opportunities.
    In Australia without English locks individuals within sub-cultural ghettos.
    Statistics for prison, parole, courts, and Centrelink certainly demonstrate under-educated ghettos.
    Considerably more can be done to assist those who failed earlier to achieve their educational potentials.
    Government needs focus on ensuring they improve themselves, their abilities, so as to access reasonable choices they failed to qualify for, failed to receive earlier.
    NT needs dump racial tags, focus on education tags.

  20. Hello friends, fastidious paragraph and fastidious arguments commented at this place, I am really enjoying these.


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