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Qld govt defends bail crackdown limiting child rights

Palasczcuk under fire for youth crime crisis

The Queensland government has sidestepped questions about the evidence backing its move to override the human rights of children by criminalising bail breaches, saying it’s responding to calls from the community.

Measures include raising the maximum prison term for car thefts and joyrides to 10 years, trialling electronic monitoring of children as young at 15, speeding up sentencing, increasing police patrols and building two new youth jails as part of Labor’s youth crime crackdown.

The government admits the proposed laws override children’s rights in the Human Rights Act it passed four years ago, and will have a greater impact on Indigenous kids.

Youth Justice Minister Leanne Linard defended the measures, which have been condemned by local and international human rights organisations and charities, in the bill introduced to parliament on Tuesday.

“We don’t make these changes lightly but we also know that Queenslanders are fearful, that they are calling on us to make significant changes, and the changes, that were announced yesterday by the Premier, we know are significant,” she said on Wednesday.

“We don’t do that lightly but we do need to address the 17 per cent who are causing 50 per cent of offences and making the community scared.”

When asked what evidence the government had relied upon to come up with the child bail changes, Ms Linard said the government was “responding to something that the community has called for passionately”.

“Breach of bail [change] is going to the fact that the community is calling for these young people, who are breaching bail, causing an ongoing concern and risk, not first-time offenders, young people who are offending and continue to offend, that that should not be allowed to continue,” she said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Save the Children service provider 54 Reasons condemned the measures, saying they lacked consultation and evidence, and detaining children would only create future problems.

“Children deserve the chance to learn from their mistakes without being harmed in prison, which we know instead often increases the likelihood of reoffending,” state director Mena Waller said.

“We cannot ignore the fact that many children who find themselves in touch with the justice system have themselves been victims of crime.”

The Queensland Human Rights Commission is concerned even more children will end up being detained in already-overcrowded watchhouses.

Ms Linard said there would be interim places to detain youth offenders while the two new prisons were built, but those were still under discussion.

The commission said the government should focus on justice reinvestment and working with Indigenous communities to find long-term solutions to current problems.

“Otherwise, for victims, for children and for the wider community, nothing will change,” commissioner Scott McDougall said on Tuesday.

The Greens said Labor lacked imagination in dealing with the root causes of youth crime, such as poverty and trauma, while Katter’s Australian Party expressed doubts about the laws working.

The opposition has also criticised the government over the legislation, which it claims copies the child bail policies of the previous Liberal National government.

-AAP

Topics: Queensland
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