Tonight’s Four Corners investigation, Inside the Watch House, raises serious questions about whether the Queensland Government is breaching its own laws by warehousing children in police cells designed for adults.
The investigation reveals that children as young as 10 in Queensland have been confined alongside adults in cruel and inhuman conditions, sometimes for weeks at a time.
Ruth Barson, a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, who helped expose the horrors of Don Dale and challenged the Victorian Government’s decision to hold children in Barwon maximum security prison, said that police cells were no place for children.
“The Queensland Government’s own youth justice laws say that children in custody must be kept safe and treated with respect and dignity. They also say that children must have access to proper education and health care. But this investigation shows very clearly that the kids locked in police stations aren’t getting any of these basic rights, raising the question of whether the Government is breaching its own laws,” said Barson.
“Earlier this year the Queensland Government passed a Human Rights Act and said that they must ‘put people first in all that they do’. A few months later, there’s shocking evidence that they’re breaching the human rights of the state’s most vulnerable children. The Palaszczuk Government can’t just say one thing, but then do the complete opposite,” said Barson.
Around Australia, over 50 per cent of kids in prison have not yet been convicted of a crime or sentenced. In Queensland, a staggering 87 per cent of children locked up are on remand, not having been sentenced for an offence. Almost 60 per cent of children in youth prisons in Queensland are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
“The Queensland Government can fix this situation today by raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and releasing kids who have not yet been convicted of any crime. Instead, the Palaszczuk Government is choosing to lock kids up in appalling conditions. This is incredibly disappointing from a Government that just passed laws to protect Queenslanders’ human rights,” said Barson.
“The Queensland Government cannot pick and choose which human rights it upholds and which laws it complies with. Children should be in playgrounds and classrooms, not behind bars. Premier Palaszczuk must take action today and end this injustice,” said Barson.
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519