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Estimates: Questions on children held in remand and in isolation in youth detention

During Parliamentary Estimates on Tuesday 15 December 2020, I asked a few questions about children in youth detention centres.

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: Director-General, question on notice 20(e) asked how many children on remand in youth detention centres were held in isolation, but the answer was given as a separation rate per 100 bed nights. Can you translate that answer into a number of children in youth detention facilities who were held in isolation for any length of time?

Ms Mulkerin: I am very happy for my colleague to answer the question.

Mr Gee: By ‘isolation’ I think you mean separation within a detention centre?

Mr BERKMAN: Yes. That is the way it has been referred to in the response so, yes—the separation rate.

Mr Gee: What separation means is that for a period—whether it is under two hours, up to 12 hours or 24 hours; the regulation is very clear about the approval processes—for the safety of the young person or another, or by their own request, or perhaps if they are ill, they are taken and put into their rooms. I am not sure whether you have been to a detention centre, but their rooms have individual showers and toilets. They have a television, so long as the young person is behaving in the appropriate way. I can inform the committee that in 2019-20 there were nine separations longer than 24 hours and this year so far there have also been nine. I think that is as of this morning.

Mr BERKMAN: The answer to question on notice 20(b) acknowledges that the department has no target for the reduction of children on remand. Director-General, what proportion of youth justice detainees are on remand and how does this compare to remand rates in the adult prison population?

Ms Mulkerin: I will refer that question to my colleague.

Mr Gee: I think off the top of my head—I will confirm it—it is about 86 per cent on an average day, the number of young people in a youth detention centre on remand. I can tell you the number of days, too, if that would help the member and the committee. I think for 2019-20 the average number of days on remand was 30. I point out that remand and the criminal justice system are complex. We are responsible, of course, for providing information to the court in terms of youth justice and the care and custody of young people in the detention centre.

In terms of how courts are administered, with respect I think that is a question for the Attorney. I do take the member’s point, though. It is an issue we have worked on considerably. We have invested in a system called RADAR—Risk and Dynamic Assessment Register—so that we can have a better practice for informing the courts. Our court coordinators across all the courts in the state are now working with better information—information and theory based on evidence about providing the best available information to the courts. As well, we have SMART teams expanded across the state—a huge investment. Education, Health, Youth Justice and referral services meet to provide not just information around the care, management and case management of young people but also better information for courts and their legal representatives so that the court can be best informed about making decisions.

I do not want to take up too much of the time of the committee, but the youth justice action plan is very specific. There is a whole range of initiatives there. They are meant to come together as a strategy to make sure that the numbers of young people before the court reduce—that the offending stops—but, as importantly, that the system is as fair as it possibly can be. There were amendments last year to the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act such that police are now required as a matter of law to inform a legal service if they are going to question a young person. Funding was provided to Legal Aid and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service. It took what police were doing anyway into a formal process. That has been a great help, particularly in terms of getting representation for young people before they enter the court. I hope that helps the committee.

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