The Queensland state government ignored warnings from over 20 organisations that its youth Justice reform would lead to over crowding in the state’s youth detention centres.
Last week, the government changed legislation to avoid a potential legal challenge, after it was revealed some children were detained in police watch house cells for an extended period of time, some for over 40 days.
The change is a direct violation of the Humans Rights Act, but was deemed necessary by Queensland’s Youth Justice Minister, Di Farmer in order to avoid dozens of children being transferred into youth detention.
“It would have meant every child went to the youth detention centres, and clearly that is a capacity issue, which we had not foreseen,” Minister Farmer, said.
In 2021, the state removed the presumption of bail in favour for some children, leading to more than 20 organisations including peak legal bodies, youth groups and independent government agencies to write submissions.
The Queensland Human Rights Commission warned “The likely consequence is an increase of children in custody, in circumstances where the limited capacity of Queensland’s youth detention centres may result in children detained for prolonged periods in police watch houses.”
While the state’s Police Minister, Mark Ryan has also expressed his concerns with the policy change.
“This government makes no apology for our tough stance on youth crime,” Ryan said last week. “As a result of our strong laws, more young offenders are in custody for longer periods of time and this is impacting youth detention capacity.”
In an open letter sent to the government on Monday, the Queensland Council of Social Services (QCOSS) says the state government’s current problems with youth justice is “a clear indicator of policy failure.”
Speaking to the Guardian Australia, QCOSS’s Chief Executive Aimee McVeigh says the government’s youth justice reforms were “slogan-based policies” and not based on evidence and community consultation.