Rugby union great Toutai Kefu’s neighbor critical of Queensland’s youth crime policy after violent home invasion

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The neighbor who came to the rescue of rugby union great Toutai Kefu during a violent home invasion has hit out at the Palaszczuk Government for failing the community when it comes to youth justice.

Ben Cannon said his family will never be the same after the alleged intruders entered his neighbours’ family home and seriously injured them in August 2021.

After hearing screams, Mr. Cannon that he saw a teenager come out of his neighbor’s house.

Mr. Cannon said he and Kefu stopped the alleged intruder, who Mr. Cannon then held down until the police arrived.

Mr. Cannon said during the incident, he hurt his knee, which required him to undergo physical therapy and wear a brace for several months.

Toutai Kefu speaks with microphones in front of him and a bandage on his arm.
Toutai Kefu was injured in the incident.(ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

Four youths, three 15-year-olds and a 13-year-old, are accused of being involved in the attack and were charged with 11 offenses each, including attempted murder.

In the 15 months since that night, Mr Cannon said the family kept quiet to let the justice system do its job.

Psychological consequences have taken a toll

While he said the response from Queensland police has been “extraordinary”, he has been frustrated by the lack of support for victims from the government and the youth justice system.

“We’ll never be the same people we were before that night, doesn’t mean we won’t get better, but we’re definitely different,” he said.

Sir. Cannon said for some time the incident was very difficult to talk about.

“There would be times when I would pull up at a set of lights and I would just cry, you know, and no real reason,” he said.

“The psychologist says it’s because your cup is so full emotionally that you just have no room left. I didn’t work for six months after that.”

A picture of Ben Cannon at home with his arms crossed
Ben Cannon said the incident had taken an emotional toll on him.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Sir. Cannon told one person in the community that it appears “the government doesn’t care”.

“The police are doing a great job of fighting it on the street level, and we as a community, I would say, are doing a great job of supporting each other through these times,” he said.

“But as I said, the government is tone deaf to the issue.”

‘No more lip service, no more reports’

Sir. Cannon said the release of the report is under review the government’s changes to the youth justice laws last weekseveral months after it was finished was a “kick in the gut”.

“I ask the premier [Annastacia Palaszczuk]come and walk with us for a day, you know, put yourself in our shoes where we have to struggle through things that used to be very easy,” he said.

“But no one has ever approached us as a victim and kind of said, ‘Hey, is there anything we can do to help?'”

Ben Cannon sits on a bench in front of his house, petting his two dogs with a hedgerow in the foreground
Ben Cannon said the Government can do more to support victims of crime.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

He called on Ms Palaszczuk to take leadership and own the problems in the youth justice system.

“So what I’m saying is this: No more lip service, no more reports, no more BS, no more throwing the police and frontline workers under the bus.”

He believed that more should be done to tackle youth crime through new solutions.

“The solutions that are in place at the moment by sending them home are not a safety net for them either,” he said.

“What’s wrong with saying one of these kids has to finish Year 12 before they’re allowed back into society? What’s wrong with making them finish a subject?

“Just saying we are [going to] lock yourself up for six months and you know we’ll see how it goes, it doesn’t either. So I know it’s not a simple solution.”

Minister for Youth Justice says the government will listen to experts

Profile photo of Queensland Minister for Children and Youth Justice Minister Leanne Linard in an office
Queensland Minister for Children and Youth, Leanne Linard has defended the government’s policy.(ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

Youth Justice Minister Leanne Linard said the case remains before the court so she was limited in what she could say.

“Queensland has some of the toughest youth justice laws in the country and the reversal of the presumption of bail means more serious repeat offenders are in custody for longer,” she said.

“The vast majority of young people who come into contact with the youth justice system never offend again.

“But for the 10 percent of offenders who commit the largest proportion of crime, there must be consequences.

“The Government will continue to listen to experts and look for evidence-based strategies to target all forms of crime, including youth crime.”

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