Communist Party of Australia

We acknowledge the Sovereignty of the First Nations’ Peoples.

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Issue #1590      April 24, 2013

Legal action over Hakea detention

Legal action is under way in Western Australia over the detention of juveniles at Hakea men’s prison. In the Supreme Court in Perth this month the parents of the detained children requested a judicial review of the state government decision to declare parts of Hakea prison a juvenile detention centre.

George Newhouse, the head of Shine Lawyers’ social justice team, appeared on behalf of the parents, who he said should remain anonymous due to fears of retribution against their detained children.

The Noongar community, the Uniting Church, Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (WA) and Youth Affairs Council of WA supported the parents outside the court.

Noongar Elder Ben Taylor, who attended with justice campaigner Marianne Headland McKay, said the government had a responsibility to ensure juvenile detainees had appropriate access to education, bail services and diversionary programs.

“We have applied to the Supreme Court to have the decisions of the minister to declare parts of Hakea a youth detention, and the decision of the Commissioner for Corrective Services to send young offenders to Haakea, overturned on the basis that the decisions do not conform with the Young Offenders Act,” Mr Newhouse said.

He said departmental failures to adequately maintain suitable alternatives to Hakea and diversionary accommodation for kids in remand had led to the crisis.

The juvenile detainees were “often manacled in the time they are outside of their room or whenever they are transported or make phone calls” he said.

They were also not receiving proper health or psychological care and there had been allegations of assaults and racist abuse, he added.

Media reports had claimed some detainees were as young as ten, Mr Newhouse said.

Why are ten-year-old boys being kept in an adult prison?” he asked.

Commissioner for Children and Young People figures at the time of the recent Banksia Hill detention centre riot, which sparked the Hakea moves, indicated 60 percent of Banksia Hill detainees were on remand, only 20 percent of them were likely to get custodial sentence, and Aboriginal youths made up 67.5 percent of the centre’s population.

The day before the legal action was launched WA Premier Colin Barnett defended the government’s actions, in response to observations of Hakea’s conditions from Children’s Court judge Denis Reynolds.

Judge Reynolds last month requested submissions from lawyers in his court regarding Hakea’s conditions, for consideration when sentencing young offenders.

Claims rejected

The Premier’s claim on ABC Radio that Hakea’s juvenile detainees were “serial repeat offenders” was rejected by Mr Newhouse.

“I have spoken to mothers, one of whom told me that her child is in Hakea on remand for stealing cans of Coke, three times. Now, that is not a hardened criminal; that is not a child who should be kept in an adult prison at a cost of $624 per day,” Mr Newhouse said.

The Premier’s further comments blamed juvenile detainees now at Hakea prison for the January riot at Banksia Hill.

However, commenting on inmate muster fluctuations, a WA Department of Corrective Services spokesperson said last month that some juvenile remandees were released in as little as two or three days. The juvenile detainee muster at Hakea has also increased from an initial 73 youths to 123, according to department statistics.

The causes of the riot are still yet to be determined by the Custodial Inspectorate inquiry.

Mr Newhouse said children who had never been convicted of any crime should be diverted out of the prison system.

Corrective services Minister Joe Francis was approached for comment but did not respond.

Koori Mail  

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