Stop Treating Child Criminals Like ‘Little Angels’, says NT Labor MP Marion Scrymgour

Youth justice laws need to stop treating criminal minors as “little angels” and start applying “tough love” to lawless children, the federal Labor MP representing Alice Springs has declared. In an extraordinary intervention against her own party’s handling of the Northern Territory youth crime crisis, Marion Scrymgour says authorities need to stop “pussyfooting around” on juveniles, that the decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility is not working, and that it is time for parents to be held accountable for their children’s actions. It came as NT Chief Minister Eva Lawler said in a “perfect world” she would not have children in detention facilities and linked her opening of a new youth justice centre in Alice Spring to the British sending convicts to Australia in the 18th century. After revelations in The Australian of children as young as 10 driving stolen cars around the streets of Alice Springs, Ms. Lawler said that young people had been in criminal trouble for “the whole history of Australia” and that the nation’s history was built on the convict system.

The NT Police Association (NTPA) also alleged crime statistics in the territory were “not being reported properly” and Alice Springs locals said children were getting more out of control. Ms Scrymgour – the federal MP for Lingiari – had her own home broken into while she was sleeping last month, and said governments needed to make serious changes to NT youth justice laws. “There’s got to be a rethink of how we deal with youth crime … a bit of tough love never hurt anyone, and I think that’s what needs to come into this equation,” she said. “We’ve got to stop thinking we’re dealing with little angels here … When you look at those photos they’re laughing and smiling, they think it’s a joke, and it’s not, because they could have an accident and one of them could get killed. “We’ve got to stop pussyfooting around here and thinking that these kids are going, and they’re being taken home to a responsible adult because in a lot of these cases there isn’t a responsible adult there and the reality is these kids don’t listen.”

Ms Scrymgour did not directly call on NT Labor to reverse its decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 – the highest in the country – but said the policy was not working to bring down crime and that Alice Springs residents needed immediate action. “At the moment, obviously lifting the age of criminal responsibility isn’t working,” she said. “The government was saying they’d done this co-response team between police and territory families. Obviously, it’s not working, if we’ve got these kids out on the street and there’s still this issue; obviously, we’ve still got problems. “Labor is talking about a review of the Youth Justice Act, there are some critical areas in the Youth Justice Act which can be done now, it doesn’t need to be put off for 12 months. “I’m not left, and I’m not woke, I just think we’ve got to hurry up and stop thinking that all of these measures are working, because they’re not.”Ms Scrymgour’s comments come as Alice Springs locals say the rate of home invasions, incidents of violence on the streets and the theft of cars have “skyrocketed” despite Anthony Albanese’s visit to the area just over a year ago.

Locals say the children – who appear to be getting younger and younger – roam the streets late at night, when they are breaking into the homes of residents and commit horrifying home invasions, stealing cars and ransacking for cash and jewelry. Ms. Lawler – who came to power only at the end of last year after her predecessor Natasha Fyles resigned and faces an election in August – last Monday announced a review of youth justice laws as part of a public address into her priorities for 2024. As she was opening a $32m detention centre for juvenile criminals, Ms. Lawler conceded the crime crisis was a failure of government, but linked youth crime to colonial history. “Overall, it would be the perfect world if we did not have a detention facility in the Northern Territory,” the Chief Minister said. “Let’s not forget the history of Australia was built on us being colonised by a detention facility from England, so we have had young people, we’ve had people in trouble with the law for the whole history of Australia.”

NTPA president Nathan Finn claimed the Territory government was hiding crime statistics from the public as part of a “political campaign”, and that the work by police officers on the ground was “not being recorded” after the police force moved to a new $65m system. “It’s a smoke-and-mirrors campaign as we lead into an election where crime is the biggest issue, policing is the biggest issue, safety and security of members in the public is a big issue … and the community and the police need to know this,” he told ABC radio. Mr Finn said the new system was experiencing numerous glitches, including people being wrongly arrested, and that up to 200 domestic violence orders hadn’t been scheduled in court. “That means possibly that there are 200 plus people out there who aren’t getting the protection they require right now.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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