During Estimates on Tuesday 15 December 2020, I asked a couple of questions about kids being held in police watch houses.
You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).
Mr BERKMAN: I will put my first question to the director-general. In the answer to question on notice No. 18, paragraph (d) indicates that the department does not keep data about the use of isolation practices in watch houses. The answer suggests that there is very little or no visibility of this and other practices in police watch houses. Is it the case that isolation and certain other practices are more limited or subject to more strict protocols in youth justice facilities than they are in police watch houses?
Ms Mulkerin: I will ask Mr Gee to answer that.
Mr Gee: Yes, they are. I would refer you to the Youth Justice Regulation 2016 specifically section 21 around separations. As I understand your question—if I can seek, through the minister and the chair, clarification—you are interested in separations or isolation?
Mr BERKMAN: Yes, specifically but any other practices. The point that I am effectively seeking clarification on is when kids are detained in watch houses they do not have the same sorts of protections
and protocols that exist in those specific youth detention facilities.
CHAIR: Member, we need to be careful there that we are not making an inference. You might wish to rephrase that question.
Mr BERKMAN: I am not clear what the inference is, but I will try again. I am seeking clarification about what additional protections or protocols exist for the treatment of youth detained in youth justice detention centres as opposed to watch houses.
Mr Gee: I would start out by saying that the Human Rights Act is clear and applies to the Minister for Police and the Police Service and watch houses as it does to youth justice. Fundamentally detention is interfering with someone’s human rights, and that is a balancing act. I will not speak for the Police Service, but having been a deputy commissioner there are significant—the processes in terms of the Police Service approach to watch houses are all available online. I think the main difference though in terms of a watch house and a youth detention centre plainly is the location and the ability to provide services in one spot particularly outside the south-east corner.
We have a range of programs in place, and I can go through them in depth. They are generally available in our youth justice strategy and action plan. They range from Murri Watch visiting watch houses not just in the south-east corner but in Mount Isa, Palm Island and Mackay—those sorts of things. I would add though that the reform program of this government has been phenomenal over the last few years in terms of investment in behavioural support, particularly clinical psychologists, speech pathologists and the like that are available in a dedicated facility, in a detention centre. I would also point out that watch houses are designed for temporary accommodation only. I think it is fair to say that, other than for a short period during the COVID cluster at the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre, there has been no young people housed in a watch house on remand other than for normal processing.
I would point out, as the committee could understand, in particularly the Far North and west, normal processing in a place like Mount Isa might mean a young person is in a watch house for a number of nights because it is not practical to take them from Mount Isa into a detention centre and back to Mount Isa inside the week. In terms of a detention centre, all of those services being in one place is the main difference. I hope that answer helps. I could go on and on, Chair.
Mr BERKMAN: It does. I would ask a follow-up question, if I might?