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LIV welcomes stronger protections for young detainees

LIV welcomes stronger protections for young detainees

By LIV Media

Access to Justice Punishment Young Persons 

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The LIV welcomes the announcement by the Attorney General that the federal government will ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) by the end of this year.

Ratifying OPCAT will enhance Australia’s commitment to independent monitoring, oversight and investigation of the treatment of detainees in facilities across Australia, including Victoria’s Youth Justice Centres, LIV president Belinda Wilson said.

“If OPCAT is implemented properly it will reduce the risk of death and mistreatment of detainees, and promote safe and well managed facilities,” she said. “Ratifying OPCAT is a critical step towards putting an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody and improving government accountability for the ill-treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison.” 

The announcement is a promising step in the wake of the Victorian Government’s decision to move Youth Justice Centres from the responsibility and control of the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Justice and Regulation, and Corrections Victoria assuming responsibility for children and young people, Ms Wilson said.

“The Victorian youth justice system has been failing, with reports revealing young people experiencing excessive amounts of time in solitary confinement (up to 23 hours a day for consecutive days), as well as a lack of access to appropriate bedding and clothing.”

In its submission to the National Children’s Commissioner Inquiry into ratifying OPCAT in the context of youth detention, the LIV submitted that the use of solitary confinement can have a “devastating, perhaps permanent” effect on the mental health of young people. 

By ratifying OPCAT, Australia agrees to international inspections by the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) and to establish one or several National Preventative Mechanisms (NPMs) to undertake regular visits of detention centres. The SPT and NPMs will be able to conduct confidential interviews with young people in Victorian Youth Justice Centres and make recommendations for improving the conditions in detention facilities. 

The LIV has long advocated for stronger protections and rights for detainees, particularly for children and young people, Ms Wilson said. “We encourage a youth justice system which prioritises the rehabilitation and educational needs of children and young people, promoting their positive development, and that ensures the safety of the community in the long term.

“Ratifying OPCAT will bring us in line with nation states such as New Zealand who have already ratified and implemented OPCAT and have noted significant improvements in terms of rights protections,” she said.

Contact

Karin Derkley, LIV Media Advisor 

T: 03 9607 9389
M: 0413 014 902 
E: media@liv.asn.au


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