Queensland Law Society has called on the state government to implement swift legislation reform to ensure 17-year-olds are no longer considered adults in the eyes of the law.
Society president Bill Potts said it was simply appalling Queensland remained the only state or territory in Australia that treats 17-year-olds as adult offenders and subjects them to terms locked up in adult prisons with hardened and seriously violent criminals.
Mr Potts said Tuesday’s (Aug 30) revelation about the harsh summary punishment inflicted on a teenage offender by guards in an adult wing of Brisbane’s Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre lent credence to the Society’s long-held view that children should never be held in adult prisons.
“QLS has a long-standing policy against treating children as adults in the prison system,’’ he said.
“The Society has regularly called for an end to this archaic and, quite frankly, barbaric practice.
“What we have seen of late is beyond the pale for adults, let alone children.”
Mr Potts said that it was telling that a person of 17 could not legally buy a drink or even vote in this state, but could be punished as an adult for any offence.
“The Society has a policy committing to evidence-based policy, and you won’t find a single scrap of evidence to show that there is any benefit to the community or to the offenders in putting 17-year-olds in adult prisons,” he said.
“Exposure to the harsh reality of adult prisons reduces the chances of rehabilitating young offenders markedly, and if we care about salvaging these young lives we need to keep them out of the adult system.”
Mr Potts said it was time the Labor Palaszczuk Government got serious about this issue and act to make legislative changes to ensure no more children ended up locked in adult Queensland prison cells.
He said it was not uncommon for Queensland judges and magistrates to comment on a frequent basis how Queensland was the only state or territory in Australia to treat 17-year-olds as adult offenders and how out-dated and appalling the laws were when passing sentence against them.
“On the first of September next year we will celebrate – or, more appropriately, mourn – 25 years of treating children as adults in our prison system; how many more pictures of children in bondage do we need to see before the government acts?”