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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
    The Honourable Di Farmer

    Historic youth justice reforms commence today

    Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
    The Honourable Di Farmer

    Monday, February 12, 2018

    Historic youth justice reforms commence today

    The Palaszczuk Government’s historic youth justice reforms will commence from today, with 17-year-olds coming in to the justice system to be treated as juveniles.

    Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said the reforms were vital to breaking the cycle of youth offending and giving young people who come in contact with the justice system a chance at a better life.

    “Breaking that cycle will be better for our communities, better for young people and better for their families,” Ms Farmer said.

    “We know that just locking up young people guarantees that most of them will offend again.

    “We want to bring hope and opportunity to young Queenslanders who have lost their way, while at the same time holding them accountable for their actions.”

    The Palaszczuk Government passed legislation in late 2016 to ensure 17-year-olds would no longer be treated as adults, bringing the state in to line with the rest of Australia.

    More than $200 million over four years has been committed to implementing the reforms, with significant progress already made.

    Ms Farmer announced that, while 17-year-olds charged from today would be dealt with in the youth justice system, the process of moving 17-year-olds currently in adult prisons to youth detention centres would be delayed.

    “It has become clear that we do not have sufficient capacity at our youth detention centres to safely cater for the transfer of those currently in adult prisons,” Ms Farmer said.

    “Previous modelling indicated that we had sufficient capacity to do this, however I am no longer confident that this is the case.

    “We have had a significant spike in the number of youth detainees, with 230 currently across our two youth detention centres.

    “This is above the highest monthly average population in recent years, which was 215 back in March last year.

    “Because of this we will delay the transfer of these young people to youth detention until the Director-General of my department is satisfied that it is safe to do so.”

    There are 61 17-year-olds currently in adult prisons, with an estimated 35 potentially eligible to transfer to youth detention once it is deemed safe for them to do so.

    Under the reforms:

    • 17-year-olds charged from today onwards will be handled by the youth justice system;
    • 17-year-olds charged before today and placed on community orders by the courts will be dealt with by the youth justice system;

    However, with the change announced today:

    • 17-year-olds charged before today, if remanded or sentenced to custody, will be dealt with by the adult system, but will be assessed for transfer to a youth detention centre when it is deemed safe to do so; and
    • 17-year-olds currently in adult prisons will remain there until they are assessed as suitable for transfer and we are confident that they can be transferred safely.

    Ms Farmer also announced that former Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson would oversee the final implementation of the government’s youth justice reforms.

    “Bob Atkinson is someone who has earned the trust of Queenslanders over a lifetime of service to this state,” Ms Farmer said.

    “He has dedicated his life to making our communities safer and he will play a broad role in overseeing recruitment, the readiness of infrastructure and the robustness and integrity of processes to ensure the ultimate success of these reforms.

    “He will examine the progress of the reforms to date, advise on rollout and next steps and provide other advice on practical measures to reduce the rates of youth offending.

    “He will also advise on recommendations related to youth detention stemming from the Royal Commission in to Institutional Responses to Child Abuse.”

    Ms Farmer said that, despite the delay to part of the reforms, the Palaszczuk Government remained committed to full implementation.

    “This reform is too important to be put at risk, and we will take the time necessary to make sure we get the implementation right,” Ms Farmer said.

    “We know Queenslanders are concerned about youth crime and that is why we can’t keep doing what we have been doing for years and expect to get a different result.”

    Ms Farmer and Mr Atkinson will meet with youth justice stakeholders tomorrow to plan the next steps for completing the reforms.

     

    ENDS

    Media contact:                      Ron Goodman                        0427 781 920

     

     

    Fast facts

    Brisbane Youth Detention Centre built capacity                                 130

    Brisbane Youth Detention Centre current population                         124

    Cleveland Youth Detention Centre built capacity                                 96

    Cleveland Youth Detention Centre current population                        106

    Number of 17-year-olds currently in adult prisons                              61

    Estimated number of 17-year-olds eligible for

    assessment for transfer to youth detention centres                            35

     

    Youth Justice Reforms: Progress to date

    The Queensland Government is advancing historic reforms to youth justice in Queensland.  This is being done to improve the life opportunities of children and young people in trouble and to improve community safety.

    This includes the commencement on 12 February of new laws in Queensland to ensure 17 year old offenders are included in the Youth Justice Act, and are no longer deemed adults.  This

    • brings our laws into line with all other Australian States and Territories
    • aligns with Australia’s commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and
    • is consistent with the Report of the recent National Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

    In particular, the reforms aim to reduce the numbers of children and young people being remanded in custody for want of a safe alternative.  Queensland’s rate of children on remand in detention (that is, not sentenced) is over 80%, the highest in Australia.

    To implement the reforms, the Queensland Government:

    • Passed legislation in November 2016 amending the age that a person can be charged with a criminal office as an adult from 17 to 18. 
    • Committed $199.6 million over 4 years in the 2017-18 State Budget in extra funds to support the implementation of the legislation.  This includes $7.5 million to the Queensland Police Service; $3.7 million for new magistrates and court staff; $6 million for legal services; $6 million for health services; and $176 million for Youth Justice Services.

    To date, the Government has:

    • Appointed 2 extra Magistrates and 12 new Court staff to deal with the extra matters in the Children’s Court
    • Advanced, through the Children’s Court Committee chaired by Judge Shanahan, changes to improve the efficiency and operation of Children’s Courts
    • Expanded the Police Prosecution workforce to deal with extras workload for children’s court matters
    • Completed infrastructure upgrades, including new Zonal Fencing in both Detention Centres to minimize the mixing of 17 year old males with 10-13 year boys and 10-17 year old girls
    • Implemented the Townsville Stronger Communities initiative with a specialist court, extra police, a joint agency action group and enhancements to youth diversionary and support services
    • Committed to more work on further security and infrastructure upgrades, including an 16 bed additional unit currently being built at BYDC
    • Recruited and trained an additional 98 Youth Justice staff (of 106) to support the transition of 17 year olds, and an additional 25 staff so far to action the recommendations of the Youth Detention Review. 
    • Recruitment includes additional specialist positions focused on mental health and therapeutic services, behaviour management and incident prevention, and cultural services and supports
    • Recruited an additional 19 casual Youth Workers for Brisbane Youth Detention Centre who commence in early March, and 8 commencing in Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in February, with more to be progressively recruited over coming weeks and months
    • Launched in November 2017 a Youth Legal Telephone Advice Line, including an after-hours, to support lawyers and young people and assist Police when considering bail or other diversionary options, and
    • Opened 2 Supported Bail Accommodation houses (in December 2017 and January 2018), with 2 more contracted to commence (in March and April 2018).  These are operated by NGOs along with Youth Justice.  This is a new model for Queensland.
    • Commenced further work by the Queensland Police Service to strengthen pre-court finalisation and restorative justice where appropriate
    • Commenced intensive case management and integrated services in Cairns, Townsville and Logan
    • Commenced preparations for comprehensive health and disability assessments of children and young people in youth detention
    • Commenced innovative Social Benefit Bond initiatives to reduce youth recidivism and to reduce youth homelessness, and
    • Notified regulations to safely deal with the transition of 17 year olds that already have been charged as adults and have current proceedings in the court.

    The Queensland Government has worked closely with legal, youth, community, education, health agencies and experts to advance the reforms. 

    In addition, over the past three years, the Queensland Government has taken major steps to tackle the address the causes and consequences of children and young people being at risk and offending, including:

    • Re-introducing Restorative Justice conferencing processes for young offenders
    • Implementing the successful Transition To Success (T2S) program to give young offenders skills and job opportunities
    • Investing in additional Child Safety, Parenting Support, Family Intervention and Well-being, Domestic and Family Violence, Drug and Alcohol, Housing and Adolescent Mental Health services, and
    • Creating in December 2017 the new Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, to include Youth Justice - improving the integration of services and investments to children and young people and their families.

    The Queensland Government has also committed to examine further reforms and initiatives to reduce youth recidivism.