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Queensland Government admits to unlawful child police detention

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The Queensland Government has conceded it unlawfully held eight children in police watch houses. The ruling could trigger further findings.
Queensland watch house

Queensland’s Supreme Court has found eight children were detained in police watch houses without a sound legal basis, instead of being taken to youth detention.

Watch house cells don’t include the same rehabilitation facilities as youth detention centres, such as education programs, cultural support, and contact with the young person’s community.

Queensland watch house:

Non-profit Youth Empowered Towards Independence (YETI) Cairns support agency brought the case.

It concerned eight children who were held in police watch houses. YETI maintained there was no legal reason for the children to be kept in these locations.

Three of the children were still in watch houses at the time of the ruling, but were transferred to youth detention shortly after.

What does the law say?

According to Queensland law, if a child offender is refused bail, they must be taken to a youth detention facility “as soon as practicable”.

Police need special court directions to keep children in a watch house, where it’s possible for children to be held alongside adult offenders.

The judge’s ruling found the Government “had not been able to establish” any such orders for keeping these children away from a youth detention centre.

Stakeholder response:

Bridget Burton from Caxton Legal Centre, who represented YETI, said the detention of the children was “unlawful” and that it was possible many other children had endured similar treatment.

“This is a serious breach of the human rights of children, and frankly quite shocking.”

When asked on Wednesday, Queensland Police Service Commissioner Katarina Carroll was unable to say how many children had been unlawfully detained in watch houses in the past five years.

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