Supreme Court to deliver judgment on kids in Barwon prison case - Thursday 11 May 2017, 10:30am

Supreme Court to deliver judgment on kids in Barwon prison case - Thursday 11 May 2017, 10:30am

Human Rights Law Centre lawyers will hold a doorstop press conference shortly after the court session has concluded (exact time is impossible to predict at this stage).

Date: Thursday 11 May 2017
Time: Shortly after the court session has concluded (session begins 10:30am)
Location: On the steps of the Victorian Supreme Court, 210 William St, Melbourne

MEDIA RELEASE: For immediate release: Wednesday 10 May 2017

The Victorian Supreme Court will decide tomorrow whether the Victorian Government breached the law in moving children to the maximum security adult prison at Barwon.

Alina Leikin, a lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, which took the Government to court on behalf of 15 children, said the Government’s decision to jail children in a maximum security adult prison was a mistake.

“As a society we shouldn’t just give up on our kids. We need to focus on showing these teenagers that better alternatives exist so they can learn from their mistakes and become productive members of our community. It shouldn’t take a Supreme Court case for the Government to do the right thing and treat kids humanely,” said Ms Leikin.

The Victorian Government lost an earlier Supreme Court case and its subsequent appeal in December last year, but side-stepped the Court’s ruling by reclassifying a unit in Barwon prison as a youth facility. This prompted the Human Rights Law Centre to file this further challenge, which was heard in April.

Ms Leikin said the case had already helped to achieve positive outcomes for children, including a significant drop in the number of children detained at Barwon, the transfer of many of the Centre’s clients to normal youth justice facilities and changes to the worst conditions.

“This case has shone a spotlight on the harmful conditions at Barwon and the Government has scrambled to fix what it could. Ultimately though, no amount of rebranding or coats of paint can change the fact that Barwon prison is manifestly unfit for children,” said Ms Leikin.

The facility has been plagued by reports of assault, extensive solitary confinement and inadequate schooling.

Ms Leikin said locking up kids in an adult prison was a serious stain on Victoria's otherwise good record of achieving some of the lowest youth crime and youth imprisonment rates in Australia.

“These kids are 15, 16 and 17 years old. Many have been exposed to family violence, abuse, trauma and neglect. Yes, they’ve made some terrible mistakes, but locking them up in a maximum security adult prison is not the answer. The Victorian Government needs to learn from the abuses at places like Don Dale and ensure children are treated humanely and in ways that will maximise their chances of leading a normal life when they are released,” said Ms Leikin.

The Government told the Supreme Court last December that the only reason it needed to send children to Barwon was because of the loss of 60 beds at Parkville following the riot damage last November. The Government gave evidence in the most recent case that the repair works at Parkville would likely be completed in May but that it planned to continue locking up children at Barwon until as late as September.
 

For further comments or queries please contact:

Tom Clarke on 0422 545 763 or tom.clarke@hrlc.org.au