QLS calls for immediate ban to children 14 and under being held in watch houses

Media release - 2 July 2019

The state'speak legal body has called on the state government to implement an urgent eight-point plan to alleviate the current Youth Justice crisis – in particular the immediate removal of all children under 14 from police watch houses.

Queensland Law Society President Bill Potts on Tuesday (July 2) said the legal profession had serious concerns about the treatment of children having to cope with a failing Youth Justice system and immediate measures needed to be taken.

Mr Potts said the Society's concerns were detailed in a letter sent to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Child Safety and Youth Minister Di Farmer on May 31.

"The Society … express great concern that the detention and treatment of children and young people runs contrary to the charter of youth justice principles in the Youth Justice Act 1992 and the Queensland Police Service Operational Procedures Manual and Australia'sobligations under international law and custom," Mr Potts’ letter read.

"We also note that the Queensland Parliament has recently passed the Human Rights Act 2019. Although this legislation is not yet in force, there is obviously an intention by the Queensland government to protect the rights of children in the criminal process."

Mr Potts said QLS strongly recommended the implementation of an eight-point plan of short term measures to alleviate the crisis and detention overcrowding:

  • An increase of the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years for all offences, or at least summary offences
  • An assurance that no children under 14 years of age will be housed in watch houses 
  • Strict adherence to the Queensland Family & Child Commission Joint agency protocol to reduce preventable police call-outs to residential care services 
  • That the security upgrade at the YDCs be completed as a matter of absolute urgency and that the 36 beds become available as a matter of priority 
  • The provision of more funding to the Office of the Public Guardian to allow community visitors to work with youth detention facility staff to identify rooms that are fit for sharing and habitation within the particular youth detention facility 
  • A commitment to review bail for children and young people, especially for those children and young people who are denied bail on welfare grounds 
  • An assurance from child safety that accommodation placement will be made available for all children and young people in care within 48 hours of arrest, and 
  • Children who are appearing by videolink from the watch house continue to have access to all of the supports offered through the pilot programs offered at Brisbane Children'sCourt (education and mental health) as would be available as if they were present at court.

Mr Potts said QLS had yet to receive a detailed response to the proposed plan, but stood ready to assist all agencies or political parties in resolving the current crisis.

He said the shared goal should be to ensure the current generation of troubled youth was afforded every opportunity to build a bright, positive and hopeful future after having had a brush with the Queensland Youth Justice system.


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