Queensland Government’s New Community Safety Bill Will Harm the Public

The community will be put more at risk by the proposed new youth justice laws which will have a devastating impact on children, the Queensland Law Society (QLS) has warned the Government.

“QLS has always advocated for evidence-based policy, and children and young people who need support to get their lives back on track are being treated like a political football, amid heightened fear in the Queensland community about crime,” said QLS President Rebecca Fogerty said today.

“QLS supports measures that enhance community safety. All Queenslanders have a right to be and feel safe in our community and deserve well-considered, evidence-based solutions to address the complexities of crime.

“However, QLS has significant concerns that the current proposals will not increase community safety and will have a devastating impact on all children, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, who are overrepresented in the child protection, youth justice, and criminal justice systems.

“Increased penalties do not deter criminal behaviour. Research shows that punishment and imprisonment not only fail to deter but, in fact, increase crime. This is evident with the Queensland Productivity Commission report into imprisonment, finding recidivism rates in Queensland are increasing.

“This legislation will not address the underlying drivers of crime, which would be best served by investment in and expansion of early intervention initiatives, diversionary options, restorative justice, and rehabilitation programs.

“If passed, this Bill will put further strain on our overpopulated youth detention centres and watchhouses, which are dangerous environments for young people and staff.

Age-related transfers to corrective services facilities

QLS has serious concerns about the proposal to transfer 17-year-olds to adult prisons, which are overcrowded, unsafe places for young people and don’t host the appropriate programs and interventions needed for their rehabilitation.

Children’s Court amendments

QLS does not support the removal of the court’s discretion to exclude victims, when necessary, from the Children’s Court. There are some instances where a victim should be excluded from the Children’s Court, and the judicial discretion to allow this should be maintained. For example, a child who has been subjected to sexual abuse and then commits a property offense against their abuser should not have to face their abuser in the courtroom.

We support strong guidelines to ensure confidentiality provisions are effective in relation to the opening of the Children’s Court to the media and the public, as identifying youth offenders can jeopardize their opportunity to become productive community members in the future.