Kids who commit serious crimes are being given cautions instead of harsher penalties - even for offences like sexual assault, robbery and extortion.

The number of cautions handed to juvenile offenders went up by 23 per cent in the 2019/20 financial year compared to the year before.

And statistics show the most common penalty given to young offenders in higher courts over the past 15 years was probation - with a "considerable" increase last financial year.

Issues surrounding penalties imposed on young offenders have come to the fore following the deaths of pregnant Alexandra Hills woman Kate Leadbetter and her partner Matthew Field on Monday evening.

The expectant couple were walking their dogs when an allegedly stolen car ran a red light, hit a truck and rolled into them as they crossed the road.

The 17-year-old driver allegedly fled the scene and attempted to steal another car but was apprehended by the owner.

 

 

Fifteen minutes earlier, police allege the same teen road-raged another driver at the same intersection, deliberately crashing into that driver's car.

The deaths of Ms Leadbetter and Mr Field sparked a call from relatives for the State Government to "change our laws" regarding juvenile offenders.

"Let's change the laws, take this anger and change it into something positive so it's not your child that you are burying one day," Kate's aunt Danielle Leadbetter told journalists.

And the Queensland Police Union called on Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman to review the "weak link" in the juvenile justice system that allows recidivist offenders to "keep hitting the streets".

Yesterday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she wanted to know "why the courts allowed this young man out on bail", while Cairns MP Michael Healy said youth offenders who pose "a risk to the community" must be kept in custody.

According to the Children's Court of Queensland annual report for the 2019/20 financial year, more than 15,000 cautions were issued to young offenders, 3000 more than the year before.

This is despite there being 6000 fewer cases finalised in court than the year before.

A total of 1209 cautions were handed out for the offence of acts intended to cause injury, 723 for sexual assault type charges and 266 for robbery and extortion.

More than 4000 cautions were given for theft related offences, including 1304 for kids who had stolen cars.

 

Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd says its frustrating to see people reoffend. Picture: John Gass
Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd says its frustrating to see people reoffend. Picture: John Gass

 

In the Magistrates Court, which handles less serious offences, the least serious penalty was the most common - with 33 per cent of kids given a reprimand.

Only 1.4 per cent of convictions resulted in detention.

The Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council's data on trends over the past 15 years shows the most common penalty for adult offenders is jail, while the most common for juveniles is probation.

Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd said more than 85 per cent of the time police had an interaction with a child over a criminal matter it resulted in "never having a negative contact again".

"One of the frustrations for us is we now know that there is data that anywhere up to 40 per cent of criminal activity that's undertaken up by juvenile offenders is by about 10 per cent of the offenders," he said.

"Yes it's frustrating at times to see people continuing to offend, regardless of their age."

LNP MP and former police officer Dan Purdie said cautions are "legitimate and effective" means of diverting young people away from the justice system.

"Everyone, particularly young people deserve a second chance," he said.

"But not a 10th, 11th and 12th chance like they're getting at the moment.

"At some point there needs to be consequences for actions that can act as a strong deterrent."

 

 

Originally published as Cautions for kids who commit serious crimes



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