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Queensland youth justice reforms don't go far enough: legal and family groups

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The Palaszczuk government's plan to overhaul youth justice laws, including removing the Newman government boot camp orders, has been met with approval from the legal and community sectors – but the government has still drawn fire for not addressing Queensland's policy of sending children to adult prisons.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath promised a review of youth justice in Queensland during the election, following the former LNP's changes to the act, which included boot camps, naming and shaming and removing the principle of detention as a last resort.

Ms D'Ath's legislation, due to be debated in the coming months, will remove boot camp orders as a sentencing order – a move which follows her decision not to continue with boot camps, following an averse Auditor-General report on the effeteness versus cost of the policy, once again prohibiting identifying children dealt with under the youth justice act, as well as removing breach of bail as an offence children can be charged with.

Minors found guilty of crimes for which no conviction was recorded will have those findings inadmissible from any adult court matters, while detention as a last resort will be reinstated, along with Children's Court of Queensland, the sentence review jurisdiction.

But while those measures received support from most respondents to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee's review into the laws, the government's failure to address Queensland's contravention of the United Nation's Conventions on Rights of the Child, by continuing to treat 17-year-olds as adults under the justice system, was raised.

"Indeed the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child have repeatedly called for the removal of 17-year-olds from the adult criminal justice system in Queensland," the Queensland Family and Child Commission submitted.


"Accordingly, the QFCC would like 17-year-olds removed from the adult criminal justice system and transitioned to the youth justice system."

The state's acting Anti-Discrimination Commissioner agreed.

"Twenty-two years after commencement of the Youth Justice Act 1992, 17-year-olds remain subject to the adult criminal justice system," Neroli Holmes wrote.

"Queensland has been criticised by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in this regard.  In the 2012 concluding observations, the United Nations Committee noted with regret that previous recommendations had not been accepted, and again expressed concern that in Queensland, 17-year-old child offenders continue to be tried under the criminal justice system.

"It again recommended that the juvenile justice system be brought fully in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant standards, and reiterated its previous recommendation to remove children who are 17 years old from the Queensland adult justice system.

"The Commission urges the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee to recommend the making of the regulation under section 6 of the Youth Justice Act 1992, to change the age at which a person will be a child for the purposes of the Act to under 18 years."

The government has committed to consulting on the matter, but has not made a firm commitment to make the change, which has been passed over by consecutive governments.

Queensland is the only state in Australia to treat 17-year-olds as adults in the justice system.

The committee will hold hearings later this month and is due to report back to Parliament in March.