Australia Seeks to Extend Terrorism Controls to 14-Year-Olds

  • Man charged with terrorist act after weekend Sydney stabbing
  • Attorney General Brandis proposes post-sentence detention

Australia announced plans to strengthen anti-terrorism laws and extend monitoring by authorities to suspects as young as 14 on Sunday, after the country’s fourth terrorism incident in two years.

Proposed legislation would enable courts to impose post-sentence detention for high-risk terrorist offenders, Attorney General George Brandis told reporters in Brisbane. The government also believed the scope of control orders, which can require suspects to submit to a curfew and restrict their contacts with others, needed to be widened, he said.

“Sadly, we have seen terrorism events perpetrated in Australia by people as young as 14 years old,” Brandis said. “We will be extending the lower-age threshold of control orders to 14 and making other important reforms.”

A gunman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State died along with two hostages after taking a group of staff and customers captive in a central Sydney cafe in December 2014. Australian authorities have disrupted about 10 planned terrorism incidents since September of that year, Brandis said.

Weekend Attack

Terrorist attacks by individuals are becoming increasingly prevalent, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters on Sunday in Canberra. “The nature of terrorism is changing, it’s evolving and we have to change our response too,” he said. “It’s critical that we continue to respond in as agile a fashion as our enemies seek to attack us.”

Australia’s terrorism threat level hasn’t been changed following a stabbing Saturday in suburban Sydney, Turnbull said. It remains set at probable, the third-highest setting on a five point scale, he said.

Police said a 59-year-old man suffered serious injuries Saturday in a knife attack carried out by a suspect alleged to have been inspired by Islamic State. A 22-year-old man was charged with committing a terrorist act and attempted murder, the Australian Federal Police and New South Wales Police said in a statement Sunday.

Serious Condition

The victim was stabbed several times while walking through a reserve in Minto, 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of central Sydney, according to the statement. He remained in the hospital in serious condition, although he was no longer critical, New South Wales Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn told reporters.

“We can clearly say that this is inspired by ISIS -- we know that,” Burn said, referring to the terror group. The alleged attacker was known to police, although not regarded as having been connected to known terrorist groups or known extremists, she said.

An attempt was also made to stab a police officer during efforts to make an arrest in nearby Macquarie Fields, police said in the statement. A counter-terrorism team is investigating the incident alongside local police officers, and a large knife had been seized for forensic examination.

The proposed legislative changes aren’t linked to Saturday’s attack, Brandis said.

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