Victoria’s new bail laws from Monday have triggered fears of an escalation in the crime rates. The Andrews government removed penalties for under-18s even if they breach bail conditions.

However, such concerns were underplayed by Victorian Attorney-General, Martin Pakula, who defended the new law and said they were recommended by child justice experts, reports SBS. 

“If someone breaks bail, whether they are a young person, a grown-up, a child, police can always go back before the courts and seek to have that bail cancelled,” he said.

Crimes by youngsters had been in focus after young members of the Dandenong-based Apex gang committed carjackings, home invasions and even played a part in the CBD riots.

Pakula said the new law has not changed anything as kids who break the law and commit indictable offences during bail can still be booked, bail cancelled, and be remanded. Pakula also said the law had to be changed because remand centres are full.

However, Victorian Police Association secretary, Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles said the changes have sent a message that youth can breach curfew without attracting any punishment.

Shadow Attorney-General, John Pesutto described the new laws as a threat to the community safety and a wrong message to young people.

Breach of bail conditions is an offence punishable by three months’ imprisonment for adults. The law changes stipulate that committing an indictable offence will be a crime but children will not be charged if they break curfew or mix with associates banned by the court.

Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said police will have to summon juvenile offenders first rather than arresting them, reports The Age.

“It’s something we lobbied against and certainly advised against, but we don’t write the laws,” Ashton added.

“This sends a message to those who are under 18 that they can have total disregard for the law and there will be no consequences for your actions,” Police Association of Victoria secretary Ron Iddles told reporters.