New law targeting ram raids passes first reading

Legislation to ensure ram raiders are held accountable for their crimes passed its first reading today, Justice Minister Ginny Andersen says.

The Ram Raid Offending and Related Measures Amendment Bill creates a new ram raid offence in the Crimes Act 1961, with a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.

“Sadly, we know many ram raid offenders are children and young people. While the community interventions we’ve introduced have worked for the majority of young offenders, this is about making sure we have the right tools to escalate our response for repeat offenders,” Ginny Andersen said.

“This Bill recognises the significant property damage and harm caused to victims by ram raiders. We’re determined to get on top of this destructive behaviour and these laws will target those who repeatedly engage in ram raids and ensures that there are greater consequences and accountability for their behaviour.”

The Bill enables 12- and 13-year-olds alleged to have committed the new offence to be charged in the Youth Court, similar to other serious offences, such as aggravated burglary. 

“This increases the options available to deal with children who offend, for example, the Bill gives Police the ability to apply for bail conditions. Increasing the range of interventions will help stop repeat offending by children,” Andersen said. 

The Bill also contains new measures to crack-down on people who commission or reward children and young people to offend, or who post offending online.

A new aggravating factor in the Sentencing Act 2002 will apply when an adult encourages or incites a person under 18 to carry out an offence.

“This aims to deter adults from exploiting children and young people and leading them into a life of crime,” Andersen said. 

There will also be a new aggravating factor for posting offending online. Posting criminal behaviour online is a common feature of ram raids and can encourage “copy-cat” offences. 

“It’s completely unacceptable that a victim may be retraumatised by seeing the harm caused to them posted online. This sends a strong message to those who post their crimes in a bid to gain notoriety that they could now face tougher consequences,” Ginny Andersen said.

These legislative measures sit alongside other Government initiatives focused on breaking the cycle of offending, including:

• the ‘Better Pathways’ package to improve the education and employment opportunities of young people,

• the ‘Fast Track’ programme and local coordination teams that respond to serious offending by children and young people, and

• the recent ‘enhanced Fast Track’ model to increase the immediacy, intensity, and duration of support for the small number of children and young people with serious and persistent offending behaviour.

These actions have been effective in reducing the rate of offending, with nearly 80% of children involved to date not reoffending since being referred to the ‘Fast Track’ programme.