Turnbull targets teenage terror suspects

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Photo / AP
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Photo / AP

The Australian Government hasn't given up on a plan to slap control orders on teenage terror suspects as young as 14.

Draft laws to lower the age at which people can be held to 14 years, from 16, will be reintroduced to Parliament as part of a two-pronged effort to deal with the threat of terror attacks.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argues the measure is proportionate. "The measures we are announcing today are designed to deter terrorism, prevent it, ensure that the nation and our people are kept safe," Turnbull said.

"The threat is real. We can never ever be complacent and we are not; we are focused constantly on the single most important obligation of our government ... which is to preserve and protect the safety of the people."

Attorney-General George Brandis says it's justified, pointing to last year's fatal attack by a 15-year-old boy on Parramatta police accountant Curtis Chang.

"As we saw tragically ... 16 is too low a threshold," Senator Brandis told reporters in Sydney.

The Government has also accepted all the recommendations a parliamentary committee made after looking at the bill before it was set aside at the calling of the July 2 election.

The committee's report said the laws should explicitly state a young person had the right to legal representation and make their best interests the "primary consideration" when courts considered the conditions of an order.

A parent or guardian of the young person would also be notified of the details of any orders.

Brandis said a special regime of juvenile controls would reflect the fact that young people were in a different situation to adult offenders, although they may potentially be "just as dangerous". The draft laws also propose a new offence banning the advocating of genocide.


WHAT IS A CONTROL ORDER?

1 Requires a terrorism suspect to be held at a specified location for a maximum of 12 hours over a 24-hour period.
2 Requires them to wear a tracking device, report to authorities at a certain time and place and be photographed and fingerprinted.

WHAT ARE THE RULES?

1 A court issues control orders which must be signed off by the attorney-general first.
2 Orders don't come into effect until the person is notified and can't last longer than 12 months.
3 Suspects under the age of 16 years are exempted (but the government wants to reduce this to 14).
4 For teenagers 16-18 years old orders apply for a maximum three months.


Constitutional lawyer George Williams says governments are now facing the issue of what to do with people who are locked up on terror charges.

He is reluctant about going down the path of such measures. "But I think on this occasion this can be justified if it's done in the right way and the detail really does matter," he said.

Turnbull last week asked Australia's counter-terrorism co-ordinator Greg Moriarty for ideas on how to prevent lone wolf attacks after the Nice massacre.

- AAP

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