Amnesty International has written to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman asking him to scrap proposed tough-on-youth crime laws.
Planned changes to Queensland’s youth justice act will breach United Nations conventions, Amnesty International says.
The state government’s tough-on-crime agenda will spread to the Youth Justice Act as a matter of urgency when parliament resumes in February.
Laws are expected to name and shame repeat young offenders, criminal histories would no longer be wiped clear, and juveniles would be transferred to adult jails when they turn 17.
One of the most controversial of the proposed changes would be to remove the emphasis of detention as a last resort.
Amnesty International has written to Premier Campbell Newman to ask for the bills to be removed from debate.
It says the changes are in direct conflict with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which states the arrest, detention and imprisonment of young people should only be used as a last resort.
“This proposal goes against international standards for protecting children and contravenes major human rights standards,” Amnesty’s government relations manager Louise Allen says.
“International human rights law makes it imperative for relevant governments to develop non-custodial measures within their legal systems and reduce the use of juvenile imprisonment.”
While youth would be stigmatised by naming and shaming, Ms Allen says the laws would also negatively impact indigenous youth, who make up 63 per cent of young people in detention.
She says the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended that arrest and imprisonment should be a last resort for indigenous youth.
While Mr Newman is particularly concerned that changes would result in higher incarceration levels for indigenous youth, he says regional communities are sick of youth crime.
“The people of Townsville particularly, people of Cairns are demanding a proper response to end the misery of constant house break-ins, car stealing and petty theft that’s going on in the city,” he said.
“It is really driving people around the twist up there and I assure them the government knows that, and we’ve got to find our way through this to take away that criminal element but properly try to give a pathway to a real life for these young offenders.
“We won’t be jumping to knee-jerk responses.”
A government study, published in July last year, showed the majority of the 4000-plus surveyed support naming and shaming and transferring young offenders to adult jails.