Young people and custodial remand in Queensland

Kelly

By Dr. Kelly Richards

The custodial remand of young people has recently emerged as a key issue for youth justice in Australia, due primarily to concerns about perceived increases in young people on custodial remand. Richards and Renshaw’s (2013) national study of remand for young people found that a diverse range of factors have influenced rates of remand, including the increasingly complex needs of young offenders, police performance measures, and the influence of victims’ rights.

Minimising the unnecessary use of custodial remand for young people is important, as Australia has obligations under several United Nations instruments (eg the Convention on the rights of the child (United Nations 1989)) to use detention of any kind only as a last resort for young people. Further, every jurisdiction except Queensland has legislation in place that provides that young people should only be detained as a last resort.

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The Legacy of the Newman Government’s Changes to Youth Justice

By Kerry Carrington and Kelly Richards, School of Justice, Faculty of Law, QUT

In 2012 the Newman Government introduced changes to the youth justice system on the grounds that Queensland has been caught in the grip of a youth crime wave, and that young offenders were getting away with a ‘slap on the wrist’. The changes to the Youth Justice Act 1992 include:

  • transferring young people to an adult prison once they turn 17 (if they have six months or more of a custodial sentence to serve);
  • allowing young offenders to be identified by name;
  • removing the principle of detention as a last resort; and
  • introducing youth boot camps, including mandatory camps for repeat vehicle offenders in Townsville.

Justice Michael Shanahan, President of the Qld Children’s Court, noted ‘Several of these changes cause me grave concern’, in his introduction to the last Annual Report of the Queensland Children’s Court. A particular concern is that Queensland treats 17-year-olds as adults and automatically transfers them to adult prison if they have more than six months on their sentence remaining. This not only adds to an already over-burdened and growing adult prison population, but contravenes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which stipulates 18 as the minimum age of adult imprisonment.  Read more