queensland to override state’s human rights act in bid to make breach of bail an offence for children
According to the Queensland government, its new laws are incompatible with human rights because they allow children to be charged with criminal offences for breaching bail conditions.
Mark Ryan, the police minister, said the Palaszczuk government will amend the Bail Act to allow children to be charged with the same crime as adults who breach bail.
Ryan wrote in a Tuesday statement that the government accepts that these provisions are incompatible with human rights.
The [Human Rights Act] is therefore overridden in this exceptional case and its application is excluded from the operation of these new provisions protecting community safety.”
According to Ryan, the amendment was not in line with international standards regarding the best interests of children.
Despite United Nations standards that it should only be used as a last resort, he said the amendment could lead to more children being detained pending trial.
Furthermore, the measures would violate the UN’s rules that detention “before trial shall be avoided to the greatest extent possible and limited to exceptional circumstances”, and “all efforts shall be made to apply alternative measures”.
Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, announced yesterday her government would criminalize breaches of bail for children, sparking fears that it will create a human rights crisis in the state’s frail youth detention system.
About 80 children are being held in adult watch houses, some for more than four weeks. Advocates fear the new measures will result in more children being held in adult watch houses.
With 17% of youth offenders committing almost half of all youth crime, Ryan said Tuesday there was an acute problem created by a small cohort of serious repeat offenders. A year earlier, 10% of youth offenders were serious repeat offenders, he said.
According to Ryan, the measures in this bill are designed to address a serious problem. This presents an exceptional crisis situation that threatens public safety.
Greens MP Michael Berkman criticized the move.
The government and opposition have been urged to adopt a smarter, not a tougher approach that prioritizes early intervention and rehabilitation, according to a coalition of over 50 experts and organizations.
Ryan confirmed Tuesday that three clauses in the government’s new laws are incompatible with the Human Rights Act: a separate sentencing regime for serious repeat youth offenders, the requirement of serving a suspended period of detention for conditional release orders, and a breach of bail as an offence for children.
This will bring the government’s total investment in youth justice to $1.1 billion since 2015.
A total of $100 million will be allocated to programs to curb youth crime, including $4 million for on-country programs for First Nations communities, and $66 million for “proactive policing”, such as high-visibility patrols in high-crime areas.
Flying squads, which partner with police to target high-risk youth offenders, will also be expanded with a $17m investment.
A $15 million investment will be made to support elderly people with the installation of security systems in their homes, as well as $10 million for a trial of vehicle immobilizers in Cairns, Townsville, and Mt Isa, and $9 million to assist crime victims.
Asked by the opposition if “detention as a last resort” would be removed from the Youth Justice Act, the premier said Queensland was not alone.
“This principle is consistent with other jurisdictions and the United Nations,” she told parliament. “So we won’t change it.”
Before returning to parliament for a final vote, the youth justice bill will be referred to a parliamentary committee for two weeks.
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