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Greens demand emergency response to new kids in watch houses figures

New data obtained by Greens MP Michael Berkman shows that the numbers of children held in adult police watch houses has dramatically increased in the last 6 months, after a brief reduction following the ABC’s ‘Watch House Files’ report in 2019. 

There were at least 2,708 (as many as 3,052*) children detained in police watch houses in the last six months (from 1 December 2020 to 25 May 2021). This represents a massive increase from 2020, with 520 young people detained in police watch houses from April-October 2020

  • At least 856 (as many as 1,188) were children aged 10-13 years old
  • At least 850 children (as many as 1,510) were detained in a watch house for one night or more, with at least 237 held for 2-6 nights and at least two children held for more than 7 nights. One child was held in a watch house for 208 hours (more than eight days).

Michael Berkman:

“I have a son who’s 11 and a daughter turning 10 soon. To think of Queensland kids as young as mine, kids still losing their baby teeth, being locked in adult watch houses - it makes me sick. 

“This is a disgrace and a crisis - worst of all, it’s history repeating. 

“Just two years ago, in response to the ABC’s damning ‘Watch House Files’, the Government agreed that children should not be kept in police watch houses.

“Now it looks like we’re back where we started and I have to wonder: does this Government only care about children’s human rights when it’s a PR problem? 

“The Premier and the Minister for Children and Youth Justice must launch an emergency response to get these kids out safely now. 

“In addition to urgently transitioning kids from watch houses into safe housing with wrap-around social support for them and their families, the Government needs a plan to fix this once and for all - because clearly their current strategy has failed.

“The Government’s new laws introduced in April, particularly the presumption against bail for children, will make this situation even worse, and more youth prisons, where children really get caught in the cycle of reoffending, won’t fix the problem. 

“The government must raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 so that all children aged 10-13 are diverted away from the criminal system towards community-based support services. 

“The millions the Government wants to spend building and expanding youth prisons should go to services that address the root causes of offending, like social housing, disability and mental healthcare, free school meals, substance misuse treatment, and Indigenous-led youth programs. 

“When kids do the wrong thing - especially kids living with poverty, substance misuse, or violence at home - that’s a sign they need love and support, not a jail cell.” 

*The Government has reported quantities between 1 and 5 as “<5” so only a range is available for some figures. 

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