Police assault on child in QLD adult watchhouse must be a turning point for youth justice state election agenda

Amnesty International expresses its strongest condemnation of the horrific assault on a child while detained in a South Brisbane watchhouse by police, exposed on ABC 730. This child should never have been detained in an adult watchhouse, following Queensland Solicitor General Gim Del Villar KC advice to the Labor government in 2023 that keeping children in police custody on remand was unlawful.

In the wake of harrowing revelations of the child being violently assaulted by police officers while detained in a Brisbane watchhouse, Amnesty International Australia is urging Queensland Labor and the Queensland Liberal National Party to change course on their youth justice election commitments.

The Queensland LNP’s announcement of their sloganeering ‘adult crime, adult time’ policy on the same day as the revelations of Jason’s assault by police in an adult watchhouse came to light is emblematic of everything wrong with how youth justice is being treated as a state election issue.

Reports that Queensland Labor’s move earlier this year to suspend the state’s human rights act to remove the legal obligation to detain children as an absolute last resort was seen as ‘necessary to stop ongoing political attacks by the Liberal National party’1 are a grave indictment on the politicisation of some of the state’s’ most vulnerable children.

The Queensland election presents an opportunity for a race to the top on youth justice responses, including urgent reform needed to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14. Queensland law currently holds children as young as 10 criminally responsible for their actions. Amnesty International calls on all Queensland political parties to take policies to the election that are evidence-based, abide by human rights law and will address the root causes of youth crime.

Children who turn to crime need support, stability and their basic needs met, they must not be locked away in prisons and used as political footballs during election campaigns.

  1. Queensland Labor’s lurch to the right on youth justice shows a government that’s lost principles and perspective, 1 May 2024, The Guardian.