Youth Justice changes set to improve outcomes

Changes to Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 have now come into full effect.

Minister for Youth Di Farmer said the changes would make sure community safety remained top priority, while also helping to keep young people out of watch houses except for normal processing.

“Importantly, judges and police can still use their discretion to detain a young person for reasons of public safety,” she said.

The Queensland Parliament passed the legislative changes on 22 August — some amendments took effect on 5 September 2019 upon assent, while the remainder took effect yesterday by proclamation.

Important changes that have now come into effect include:

  • the Queensland Police Service will be required to contact, or attempt to contact, Legal Aid Queensland or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service prior to questioning a child in relation to an indictable offence
  • more efficient arrangements for pre-sentence reports for children
  • enhanced requirements for police when dealing with a child who has been arrested or served with a notice to appear
  • a new information sharing framework to support coordinated services for children charged with offences.

As part of these measures, a special hotline will enable police officers to contact Legal Aid Queensland directly in a timely manner. The new laws also require police officers to make all reasonable efforts to contact a parent of a child who has been arrested.

Ms Farmer said agencies would also be more able to share relevant personal information about a child in the youth justice system to provide co-ordinated advice to courts when making bail or sentencing decisions.

“This new information-sharing framework will help make sure all relevant agencies are working together to make assessments and referrals for young people appearing before courts so that families and children get the support they need,” she said.

“These changes will help courts and police to consider the individual circumstances and lived experience of children when making decisions about their future.”

To further enhance protections for young people, staff and visitors, body-worn cameras for staff have become fully operational in the state’s two detention centres as a result of the new legislation.

“The cameras will ensure greater protection and safety for young detainees and youth detention staff, ensuring greater transparency,” Ms Farmer said.

Ms Farmer said the new child-focussed framework for courts and police will reduce the time it takes for youth justice proceedings to be finalised and ensure appropriate conditions are attached to bail so that children are not set up to fail.

The new measures form part of the Queensland Government’s $550 million historic youth justice reform agenda.

The Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 can be found at https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/asmade/act-2019-023.

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