Letter to the editor: Reducing age of criminal responsibility doesn’t address bigger problems in the NT

by | Feb 23, 2022 | Opinion | 0 comments

The Gunner Government’s motivation to reduce the age of criminality is only a manipulative way of reducing the crime rate statistics and I have the experience to support this.

One of the main issues of why the NT will never progress in terms of combatting the extremely high volumes of crime, is solely due to NT Government practices which is not to tackle the hard issues which require community engagement, work, and ethical behavior.

For too long the NT Government has been persecuting good Territorians who do the right thing by society. Good, ethical Territorians are easy to control as they generally have things they can lose, such as employment, mortgages, businesses and generally won’t ever make comments or waves against their government for fear of reprisals.

The harder issues which are the crux of the NT’s problems, like crime and largely juvenile indigenous crime, is way too hard for this government to even imagine trying to tackle.

I was in the police for over 16 years at both the federal and NT levels. When it comes to crime, many governments hide the truth, to convince everyone the issues are being resolved. They do this by manipulating the statistics and I know firsthand. I personally was involved in the NT Police force when we were instructed to alter the statistics parameters on criminal damage by the government.

At the time, the government had made an election promise, and knew there was no way possible they would reduce criminal damage to the promised levels. So, a strategy was implemented.

Internally, the NT Police force was required to estimate the average cost of criminal damage when a crime would occur. Criminal damage garnered a price tag, and it was nominated by police officers. Any damage we estimated under $500 went under a different stat. Anything over $500 was criminal damage.

Overnight, on paper, criminal damage was drastically reduced and on paper they delivered on their election promise.

The Chief Minister at the time even stood up in parliamentary sittings and made an announcement of the reduced rate of criminal damage.

Luckily, a member of the opposition had that day’s court list and said “you must be joking, crime is worse than ever” and dropped the court list which went all the way from the member’s hand that was raised in the air to the floor. Pages and pages of criminal damage events were recorded as different offences.

Sadly, the NT Police executive at the time were way too concerned with their own individual employment contracts to ever say no to the NTG.

It is my view and with this experience, that this is the reason why the Gunner Government wants to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

The calculations would have been done on the average age of our juvenile offenders and they know how much they can reduce juvenile crime reporting statistics. If an offender is too young to commit a crime, then the crime never happened.

The Gunner Government will be able to stand up and brag that they have reduced juvenile crime by a massive percentage. Of course, all of us living in the NT will know that crime is still prevalent. However, they will be able to present stats showing a huge reduction in juvenile crime. It will be history repeated.

It is a situation of statistics reducing the appearance of crime rather than doing what is required to reduce the crime and as I said, I have the experience to stand by this.

This is why the NT Government has only announced the desire to raise the age of criminal responsibility, they have offered no actual strategies or solutions as to what they are going to do with these children other than stop recording offences against them.

For example, the recent event in Alice Springs last week where a home invasion occurred and an incredibly expensive Range Rover was stolen by Indigenous youths which subsequently led to multiple police vehicles engaged in high speed pursuits. Two of the offenders were 12 years of age.

If the government is successful in raising the age of criminal responsibility, these children cannot be charged with any offences at all and all repercussions are removed. The victims continue to suffer, the events become a game to the troubled youth, but the NT Government wins as these incidents won’t be registered against a juvenile criminal offence as the offences will be removed.

Carey Joy – former Sergeant NT Police and Federal Agent AFP. Total 16 years of service.


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