Queensland passes controversial youth crime laws after heated human rights debate

New laws include the overriding of the Human Rights Act to allow children to be charged for breaching bail

The Queensland government’s controversial youth crime laws have been passed in parliament despite strong opposition by human rights advocates and experts who warn they are ineffective and will result in more children incarcerated.

The laws include overriding the state’s Human Rights Act to make breach of bail an offence for children. They will also expand an electronic monitoring trial for children as young as 15 and provide additional funding of $9m to assist victims of crime.

Parliament passed the bill on Thursday night, after three days of debate.

During the debate of the bill, the police minister, Mark Ryan, boasted that “Queensland has some of the strongest, toughest and most comprehensive youth justice laws in the nation”.

He said this had resulted in “more young people detained and for longer periods”.

“This bill builds on those laws to ensure serious repeat youth offenders are held accountable for their actions and that there are swift and serious consequences for criminal offending,” Ryan said.

“This is what Queenslanders expect.”

The opposition leader, David Crisafulli, said the Liberal National party largely supported the changes, such as making breach of bail an offence for children.

The LNP’s push to scrap the principle of detention as a last resort failed as Crisafulli accused the government of misleading the public over maximum penalties for offences such as car theft.

The Greens MP for Maiwar, Michael Berkman, accused the government of driving “a baseless, media-driven response that suspends the Human Rights Act on four occasions to deny children their rights”.

“This is a disgraceful piece of legislation and I hope each and every one of these members of the government feels shame,” he said during the debate.

On Thursday morning the state’s youth justice minister, Leanne Linard, told the ABC the government “has a responsibility to keep the community safe” and did not take the decision to override the state’s Human Rights Act “lightly”.

Linard said the government would invest an extra $100m into frontline services that work with vulnerable families and young people “to change the trajectory of these young people’s lives”.

Her comments came as Guardian Australia reported that a 13-year-old First Nations boy remanded for minor criminal offences was kept in solitary confinement in a Queensland youth detention centre for at least 45 days.

When asked about the case, Linard said the boy had not been kept in his cell during his entire time in detention and that he had been attending programs and interacting with peers and staff.

“I spoke with the department and I believe the [information] the court was provided with … did not provide as fulsome a picture as it could have,” Linard told the ABC.

Linard said the boy “did participate in separation at times” but could not say when or for how long.

Human rights organisations also expressed alarm with the bill passing, saying they worry the laws will harm children.

Mena Waller, the Queensland state director of Save the Children, said “today we have witnessed a serious decline in children’s rights in Queensland”.

“It is deeply disappointing that the state government has proceeded with these new laws, despite repeated warnings from medical, legal and children’s advocates that such extreme measures will only serve to exacerbate the youth justice crisis in the state,” she said.

“We urge the government to reverse this dreadful course and instead focus on what we know works – early intervention, diversion and rehabilitation.”

The Queensland human rights commissioner, Scott McDougall, has previously warned “public anxiety” is “no justification” to suspend the Human Rights Act.

“We do want to preserve the Human Rights Act. We don’t want to set a precedent where the government suspends the Human Rights Act because there is public anxiety,” he told a committee last month.


Eden Gillespie

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Recipe for disaster’: Queensland bail law that overrides children’s human rights won’t work, experts say
Legal groups also criticise the push to override the state’s Human Rights Act to create the offence

Joe Hinchliffe and Eden Gillespie

22, Feb, 2023 @3:00 AM

Article image
‘Absolute dog act’: Queensland Labor criticised for shock move to override state’s Human Rights Act
Proposed law changes include allowing children to be detained in adult watch houses for the next three years

Andrew Messenger and Eden Gillespie

23, Aug, 2023 @8:00 AM

Article image
Human Rights Act could be critical in divisive Queensland youth bail case
Palaszczuk government’s 2019 laws to be weighed against underlying principles of human rights

Ben Smee

14, Feb, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
Queensland committee backs overriding human rights for new youth laws as striking ‘appropriate balance’
Changes ‘justified’ in light of public anxiety and despite some provisions being incompatible with rights act

Eden Gillespie

10, Mar, 2023 @3:10 AM

Article image
‘Life and death situation’: Queensland police minister’s claims on youth justice rebuked by experts
Mark Ryan criticised for saying government’s move to override Human Rights Act is for ‘the greater good’

Eden Gillespie

23, Feb, 2023 @7:54 AM

Article image
‘Public anxiety’ no justification to override Human Rights Act on youth crime laws, Queensland MPs told
Human rights commissioner Scott McDougall warns against making breach of bail an offence for children at tense parliamentary committee hearing

Eden Gillespie

28, Feb, 2023 @7:44 AM

Article image
Elderly man who sparked renewed debate of youth crime dies in Queensland hospital
Ministers and police commissioner will attend community forum in Toowoomba as high profile youth crimes put Palaszczuk government under pressure

Eden Gillespie

13, Feb, 2023 @6:56 AM

Article image
‘A crime not to go home’: 24-hour curfews forcing Queensland children to live with violent offenders
An increasing number of young people have been made subject to harsh restrictions as part of their bail conditions

Ben Smee

16, Jun, 2023 @3:00 PM

Article image
Queensland children may be pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit to avoid bail laws, report says
Police minister Mark Ryan says nation-leading incarceration rates reflect what the community wants

Joe Hinchliffe

16, Nov, 2022 @4:04 AM

Article image
Queensland’s plan to override human rights law ‘deeply concerning’, commissioner says
Scott McDougall alarmed at Palaszczuk government plan to make breach of bail an offence for children

Ben Smee

21, Feb, 2023 @2:00 PM