Detaining children in adult prison unlawful: Supreme Court rules against Victorian Government

The Victorian Supreme Court this morning ruled that detaining children at the Barwon maximum security adult prison was unlawful and prohibited the Victorian Government from continuing to detain children there.

Alina Leikin, a lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre that took the legal action against the Victorian Government on behalf of 15 children, said it was an important win for children’s rights and Victoria’s Human Rights Charter.

“As a society we should never give up on our kids. We’re talking about 15, 16 and 17 year olds who should have their whole lives ahead of them, but instead were locked up in concrete cells for up to 23 hours a day in a maximum security adult prison. It was always a terrible mistake to send them there, it’s now been confirmed yet again that it was unlawful,” said Ms Leikin.

It is the fourth legal loss for the Victorian Government. The Government settled an initial Supreme Court case by agreeing to remove Aboriginal children from Barwon. It then lost a Supreme Court case and its subsequent appeal in December but side-stepped the ruling by reclassifying the Grevillea Unit at Barwon as a youth justice facility. The Supreme Court today ruled that the reclassification was unlawful.

“The Government must now do the right thing and immediately get all kids out of Barwon and into lawful, humane, age-appropriate youth facilities. The focus must be on showing these kids that better options exist and giving them pathways to become productive members of our community,” said Ms Leikin.

The Court documented extensive evidence of the harmful conditions at Barwon including the extended solitary confinement, ongoing handcuffing and the denial of proper education.

“With the repairs to Parkville returning 60 beds to the system, the government needs to do the right thing and immediately bring these 15 remaining kids at Barwon back to normal, age-appropriate youth justice facilities,” said Ms Leikin.

More details of the ruling to be published in the coming hours.

The decision can be read here: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VSC/2017/251.html

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