August 22, 2019
The State Government passed new laws on Thursday to keep young people out of watchhouses.
Youth Minister Di Farmer said the legislation delivered on a commitment that children and young people should not be detained in police watchhouses, other than for normal arrest and processing.
She said the legislation removed barriers that may contribute to children being refused bail or remaining in detention on remand for an extended period.
“When it is safe to do so, we want children out of detention, especially when they have not yet been convicted of an offence,” Ms Farmer said.
“Currently, some children are held on remand because they don’t have a safe home or appropriate supervision and support, not because they pose a risk to community safety.
“Importantly, these laws make sure that judges and police can use their discretion to ensure community safety when making decisions about bail – if a young person needs to be detained for reasons of community safety, then judges and police retain that ability.
“But whenever it is possible and safe to do so, we want young people out of detention, especially when they have not been convicted of an offence.”
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According to Amnesty International, there were 22 children in Queensland watchhouses on Wednesday, including an 11-year-old.
One child had been held for more than 11 days in Cairns.
However, Amnesty described the Bill as “an historic step” .
Amnesty Indigenous Rights advocate Joel Clark said the legislation was a win “for all the young people and their families who have suffered through a broken system”.
“The government can’t take back that suffering, but they can make it sure it never happens again,” Mr Clark said.
“The government has rightly committed to ensuring children should spend as little time as possible in watchhouses.
“There must be no repeat of the awful conditions exposed in the Brisbane City Watch House. This can be done by introducing legislation to stop children being held in watchhouses overnight.
“The Opposition’s proposed three-day cap would have gone some way to ensuring that. We are very disappointed, therefore, that the government didn’t accept the amendment.
“The Government’s commitment to keeping kids out of prison will only be proven when they raise the age of criminal responsibility from ten to at least fourteen. The Attorney-General is currently hiding behind the cover of a national review, but she should listen to the experts and raise the age as soon as possible.”
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The Bill was tabled in June and was then referred to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee for consideration. After considering submissions from stakeholders, the Committee recommended it be passed.
Ms Farmer thanked all those who had been involved in developing and drafting the Bill from the initial consultation process through to the Parliamentary committee stage.
“During the development of the Bill we received valuable feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, including magistrates, police, legal practitioners, service providers and youth advocates, and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to make a submission,” she said.
The Bill is expected to fully take effect at the end of this year, with some provisions coming into effect immediately.
The Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 can be found online