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Changes to Youth Justice laws

Queensland’s Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016.

On 3 November 2016, the State Government passed amendments to Queensland’s Youth Justice Legislation.

The most significant change will see that seventeen year old children are no longer incarcerated in adult correctional centres. Any person under the age of eighteen years who has a custodial sentence imposed will be incarcerated at a youth detention centre as opposed to an adult correctional centre. Under the amended legislation, individuals who are held in youth detention and reach their eighteenth birthday will be issued with a prisoner transfer direction. The individual can then delay their transfer to an adult correctional centre for up to six months after their eighteenth birthday. The legislation provides that a six month delay may be warranted so long as the individual does not pose a risk to the safety and wellbeing of others.

Prior to these amendments, persons who had reached their seventeenth birthday were automatically incarcerated at adult correctional centres. Further, any individual who reached the age of seventeen whilst in youth detention was moved to an adult correctional centre as soon as possible. Whilst seventeen year olds will still be dealt with, and be seen in the eyes of the law as an ‘adult,’ they will no longer be detained in correctional centres amongst older adults.

These amendments will also mean that any individual who would have been released from custody on a supervised released order under the Youth Justice Act, are instead released on a parole release date for the imprisonment term imposed by the Courts. This amendment was included as a result of the Supreme Court decision in Coolwell v Chief Executive, Department of Justice and Attorney-General and Anor (No 2)[2015] QSC 261.

As well as increasing the age for individuals being held in youth detention, the amendments also seek to recall court referred youth justice conferencing and to provide for more flexibility in this process. In addition, the objectives of the amendments are to close the Childrens Magistrates Court for Youth Justice Matters, and to provide for victims when they are present in court. In making these changes, the Queensland Parliament has considered how cognitive development remains incomplete whilst individuals are within the age bracket to which the Youth Justice Act applies.

These changes will come into force over the next twelve months.

Fisher Dore has extensive experience in representing young people charged with criminal offences.

- Eloise Strofield


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