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Issue #1750      September 28, 2016

Qld “leader” in locking up children

Queensland leads the country in locking up 10- and 11-year-old children and could be breaching United Nations conventions on children’s rights and torture, Amnesty International claims.

The rights group has released a report on Queensland’s juvenile justice system after reviewing 1,000 pages of documents on the alleged abuse and mistreatment of children in detention. It says no other state in Australia is locking up 10- and 11-year-old children at Queensland’s rate.

Queensland is also the only state or territory to incarcerate 17-year-olds in adult jails, and there is a gross overrepresentation of Indigenous children in detention, Amnesty says.

The group cites grave concerns about the use of dogs to control young detainees, the alleged over-use of restraints and solitary confinement, and partial strip searches.

“There was about 1,000 pages of examples of abuse, that ranged from the use of dogs to use of restraints. We found examples where young kids in detention ... are being handcuffed while they are playing basketball,” Amnesty’s Australian director Claire Mallinson said.

“We’re so concerned. We could be in breach of the (UN) convention against torture.” Mallinson said Queensland could also be breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The group has reviewed more than 1,000 pages, detailing incidents at Townsville’s Cleveland Youth Detention Centre and the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre between 2010 and 2015.

It says that on an average day last year, 89 percent of children at the Townsville centre were Indigenous. Amnesty cites frequent attempts at self harm or suicide, particularly at the Townsville facility, and says eight Indigenous children were held in isolation for 10 days “in near-continuous cell confinement – approximately 22 hours a day”.

The Queensland government has already ordered a comprehensive review of the state’s juvenile justice system, and has said some of the concerns Amnesty raises have already been addressed, including the use of dogs and invasive searches.

It says it has a policy to remove 17 year olds from adult jails and has promised to nominate a timeframe to do that, but has also noted problems with placing 17 year olds, often accused of serious crimes, with younger inmates.

Koori Mail

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