The Queensland Government’s decision to move kids out of police watch houses “as soon as humanly possible” is welcomed, but the Human Rights Law Centre calls on the Government to publicly commit to a long-term solution so that no child is warehoused in a police watch house again.
Ruth Barson, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the Government should draw a line in the sand and stop this practice for good.
“It is good to see the Government end this dark chapter. However we now need a long term solution so that we don’t see kids locked up in watch houses next week, next month or next year. Children should be with their families and in their communities, not behind bars,” said Ms Barson.
Today, Youth Justice Minister Di Farmer, said that there were no children in the Brisbane Watch House and five children in regional watch houses across the state, who will be transferred out. Four weeks ago there were close to 90 children in watch houses across Queensland.
The Human Rights Law Centre has been working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service and Caxton Legal Centre to hold the Queensland Government to account for unlawfully holding children in police watch houses.
“Holding children in police watch houses for weeks on end is not just cruel, it is unlawful. The Government has a legal obligation to move kids out of watch houses quickly – rather than leaving them to languish. Irrespective of the policy challenge, unlawfully holding children in inhuman conditions can never be the answer,” said Ms Barson.
Police watch houses are designed to hold adults for very short periods of time.
“Over the past 18 months, hundreds of children have spent weeks on end locked in tiny, cold police cells. They’ve had no access to sunshine, education or family. The fact that the Government has moved these kids now shows that they know it is fundamentally wrong to hold children in watch houses,” said Ms Barson.
For media comments:
Michelle Bennett, Communications Director: 0419 100 519