Child crime epidemic exposed

NEARLY one in 10 people who appeared before a Rockhampton magistrate was a child during the 2009-10 financial year, figures show.

Rockhampton had the highest ratio of child defendants of any of the major population centres in Queensland during that period.

At 9.24% the figure was well above the state average of 5.37%.

Cities such as Bundaberg, Townsville and Gladstone had rates below 5%.

The level of juvenile offenders appearing in the Children’s Court for the current financial year is expected to be up on last year and close to those levels seen in 2007 to 2009.

The spotlight has been on juvenile crime in Rockhampton in recent weeks after a number of high-profile incidents.

Responding to a Morning Bulletin inquiry, a spokeswoman for the Rockhampton Magistrates Court said based on the first 10 months of the current financial year it was projected there would be 588 juvenile defendants in total for 2010-2011.

She said while this figure was a rise from last year, when 527 youths fronted court on 1197 charges, it was still lower than each of the three financial years before this.

Rockhampton had a total of 9792 charges presented in the Magistrates and Children’s courts – 2.67% of the state’s total.

Earlier this month The Bulletin was denied the opportunity to report on proceedings in the Children’s Court in Rockhampton for the case of an alleged hotel break-in after a party objected.

A request had been made to Magistrate Annette Hennessy to report on proceedings involving six youths who allegedly broke into North Rockhampton’s Ascot Hotel.

Then court staff said the unnamed party had argued against the request on the grounds the newspaper had not provided evidence to back a claim that juvenile crime was on the rise in the district.

The hotel was broken into on May 29 and six youths – five boys and a girl aged between 13 and 16 – are alleged to have been involved in smashing windows at the hotel to gain entry and then stealing bottles of rum as well as a small amount of cash.

The outcome of the case is not publicly known.

Owner Will Cordwell said he had shelved plans for a $30 million redevelopment until the business community had confidence offending youths were being appropriately dealt with.

Percentage of defendants who are children appearing in court:

  • Rockhampton 9.24
  • Brisbane 5.04
  • Gladstone 4.96
  • Bundaberg 4.44
  • Ipswich 7.25
  • Mackay 6.79
  • Southport 3.31
  • Townsville 4.27
  • Toowoomba 8
  • Yeppoon 5.68
  • Queensland 5.37

Source: Magistrates Court of Queensland

Annual Report 2009–2010

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