Queensland Law Society

Brave step for grave problem

Queensland Law Society said today the government’s acceptance of child protection inquiry recommendations was a brave step to address a grave problem.

President Annette Bradfield said the current system’s significant flaws regarding procedural fairness and poor resourcing would hopefully be addressed through some innovative solutions.

“A major positive move is the judge-led Court Case Management Committee that will provide legal guidance and consistency for children, parents, legal practitioners and the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services.

“A feature of our submissions to the Child Protection Commission of Inquiry was addressing case management in child protection matters.

“We are pleased to see the government supporting the Inquiry’s recommendation for a Court Case Management Committee to address this issue, and we look forward to being involved in this work.

“One of the most important features of the group is to review disclosure obligations and make recommendations on legislative reform.

“There is currently no ongoing requirement for the department to provide full and frank disclosure, that is, providing the other party with facts and evidence relating to the case - standard procedure in other court matters.

“We’ve heard from our members who represent parents and young people that without full and frank disclosure, it is extremely difficult to provide advice and prepare for hearings.

“In fact, parties to matters have needed to subpoena the department so they can access the department’s evidence.

“This positive change is about fair outcomes, based on procedural transparency, for all parties involved.

“We remain concerned about the recommendation to ‘accept in principle’ therapeutic secure care.

“The term “therapeutic secure care” is something of a misnomer; effectively it means compulsory confinement of children in the child protection system.

“We stated in our submission that it could be a significant intrusion into a young person’s rights in a situation where they are not detained for criminal or mental health reasons but because ‘they pose an immediate and serious risk to themselves or another person’.

“Instead of effectively confining these children, we have suggested a review of current legislation to assess and address any gaps, and training for police and youth workers to manage behavioural problems.

“Overall, the positive outcome of the Inquiry’s report shows the value of genuine consultation and its ability to create win-win situations for all parties.”