The first stage of amendments, introduced to the parliament in December 2015, included the abolition of Youth Boot Camp detention, the prohibition of 'naming and shaming' child offenders, and reinstatement of the principle of detention as a last resort.
The key reforms of the second stage include:
- Increasing from 17 to 18 the age at which young offenders, who have at least six months to serve in detention, are to be transferred to an adult correctional facility. This brings Queensland in line with all other Australian states and territories and is in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also includes new powers for a court, on application, to delay a young person's transfer for up to six months beyond their 18th birthday.
- The closing of youth justice proceedings in the Children's Magistrates Court. In an attempt to make court processes transparent and ensure victims can be involved if they choose, the Bill also includes a new provision for victims or their representatives to be present in closed court.
- The reinstatement of youth justice conferencing to provide greater flexibility to deliver diversionary restorative justice interventions as part of police and court-referred conferencing. This process enables youth offenders to meet their victims and see the effect of their actions.
The reforms effectively dismantle the former Liberal National Party government's tough youth justice laws which, at the time, were heavily criticised by the profession and the academy as out of step with best practices both nationally and internationally, and contravened Australia's human rights obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee has until 6 June 2016 to report to the House on the reforms.
KELLI LEMASS is a Brisbane solicitor.