Changes to Youth Justice Act Slammed

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service in Queensland (ATSILS), have written a joint letter to the United Nations, urging them to intervene in the changes to the Youth Justice Act put forward to parliament on Tuesday.

The changes, detailed here, have been slammed by multiple human rights agencies, Amnesty International recently stated that the proposed laws will do nothing to rehabilitate offenders, they will simple fast-track them into prison cells.

The Queensland Law Society (QLS) has raised multiple concerns with the laws, fearing they will alienate and stigmatise young offenders, forcing them to wear a label and commit further offences. Damian Bartholomew, deputy chair of the QLS’s children’s law committee has stated that the laws will not reduce youth crime in Queensland, and that the proposed legislation was particularly concerning.

The HRLC’s Director of International Advocacy, Ben Schokman, stated last week that the new laws are likely to violate a number of Australia’s human rights obligations.

Mr. Schokman further stated that, “Children don’t belong in prison. Locking children up should only be done in the most exceptional circumstances and as a measure of absolute last resort. These reforms turn that principle on its head and will result in prison being the norm, rather than the exception.”

Both the Children’s Court Bill and Youth Justice and Other Legislation Bill were introduced to parliament last week, and have been referred to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee.