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Interview: Professor Kerry Carrington, School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology -

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MATT WORDSWORTH, PRESENTER: Professor Kerry Carrington is head of the School of justice at the Queensland University of Technology and she joined me a short time ago.

Professor Kerry Carrington, thank you very much for joining us.

Can I firstly get your reaction to these allegations at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre?

KERRY CARRINGTON, SCHOOL OF JUSTICE, QLD UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY: Well, I think they're shocking. I'm not surprised because I'm aware of the sort of systemic nature of abuse in juvenile detention but they are certainly shocking images, and reasonable force is what's allowed and permitted under standards of detention.

That doesn't look like reasonable force to me.

MATT WORDSWORTH: So there are instances where that may be routine, allowable, excusable and perfectly acceptable behaviour?

KERRY CARRINGTON: Only reasonable force is allowed in exceptional circumstances where restraint is necessary to protect the inmate or to protect others.

And certainly those images I saw didn't look at all reasonable to me.

MATT WORDSWORTH: The Prime Minister's already announced a royal commission to look into juvenile justice in the Northern Territory. Do you think that should be extended across the border?

KERRY CARRINGTON: I certainly do. I certainly do think that now. We've had witness statements from former staff which are consistent with the images.

We've now had victims come forward of institutional abuse.

We know that there's been a long history of it in Queensland, the Forde inquiry found it in 1999.

That was the beginnings of setting up the youth inspectorate into detention here. So quite clearly there needs to be a forensic examination of those instances.

We know there's been at least five staff allegedly moved on from working in detention centres in Queensland for allegations of excessive force. We know that already.

That's already in the public domain so I do think it's time to have some answers.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Just before I do want to talk about the about the Forde inquiry but I want to establish what's
happening with juvenile detention in terms of the numbers, are they rising the number of kids in jails or dropping or are they the same?

KERRY CARRINGTON: Okay, the national trend is that they're declining. That's not what's happening in Queensland. They're increasing.

They've declined slightly from 2014 to 2015 and this is very ironic because the number of young people coming before the courts has been a on a 10-year consistent trend down.

So, we've had an inconsistency. We've got a, we have an over-use of detention of children in Queensland.

MATT WORDSWORTH: So what you're saying is we have crime rates recalling in Queensland but the kids in detention rising?

KERRY CARRINGTON: Very much so, and that's very much so over the last five years that that's happened and of those in detention what's so alarming last year of those in detention, 135 were on remand, that is they were unsentenced and only 34 were sentenced.

MATT WORDSWORTH: OK, so 34 were sentenced to a crime after they'd been found guilty in a court of law. The others were what, awaiting trial?

KERRY CARRINGTON: Well, they were on remand, they may not for some reason or another, there are lots of reasons for remand but clearly it's been overused.

Queensland and Northern Territory are out leaders when it comes to the over-use of remand and it's being used I think as a short, sharp shock, and of those who are remanded, once they've gone to court, over half of them are immediately released which means they're being put into detention for offences they shouldn't have been in there for.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Immediately released presumably because of the time they've already served.

KERRY CARRINGTON: Well, that could be a factor but it's more likely a factor that they're in remand for, not because of the crime they committed but because they can't get bail, they might not have a place to stay.

They might not meet the other expectations put on them.

So, in other states and jurisdictions remand is nowhere near as used as it is here.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Okay, what kind of percentage of these kids are Indigenous?

KERRY CARRINGTON: That's a big shock - 64 per cent.

MATT WORDSWORTH: And what, 2 to 3 per cent of the population, 60-odd per cent of the jail population?

KERRY CARRINGTON: Well, they're 6 per cent of the adolescent population and 64 per cent of the juvenile detention population.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Okay, so 10 times overrepresented but just as a broader issue, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states 'detention should only be used against children as a last resort'. Is that convention being upheld in Queensland and in Australia?

KERRY CARRINGTON: No. It's definitely not. Because of the excessive use of remand, that's one. The other is that there are far too many children in detention at any one point in time and detention should seriously only be used for offences that, where there is a threat to the community and we know that juveniles commit very, very, very few offences that are of that nature.

So, for example, very few homicides. In fact, none last year, none. So most children really should not be in detention.

The other really shocking factor is that Queensland detains children who are aged less than 13 and in fact, I think they detain the most number of children aged less than 13 in detention, and when you look at who they are, they're mostly Indigenous.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Just on the issue of detaining children, Queensland's the only state which jails 17-year-olds in adult jails.

KERRY CARRINGTON: Yes, and that is an absolute clear breach of the United Nations Rights on the Convention of the Child which states that no children should be detained in adult prisons.

And Queensland legislation is an embarrassment to Australia.

MATT WORDSWORTH: So you would hope, what, the royal commission makes a recommendation directly about that particular law?

KERRY CARRINGTON: Well, they don't need to make a recommendation, it's completely and utterly a breach. It's a clear breach, no other state does it, and the reasons I have heard for keeping 17-year-olds in prison in Queensland are that they don't want 17-year-olds to mix with 10, 11 and 12 year olds.

Well, I would say to that why would you ever want to detain children who are under the age of 13, why?

MATT WORDSWORTH: Well, another open question is what is this going to achieve? Because Queensland's already had an inquiry, a commission of inquiry into abuse in Queensland institutions.

It was the 1999 Forde inquiry. I know you're very familiar with it.

KERRY CARRINGTON: Yes.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Can I read you recommendation five? "There be a concerted whole of government effort to reduce the gross overrepresentation of Indigenous children in juvenile detention centres", recommendation 6, "that alternative placement options be developed for young people on remand in order to reduce the number placed in juvenile detention centres."

Have we learned anything?

KERRY CARRINGTON: Seemingly not. I have to put it in some historical context. There was a period, and, over the last 10 years where it was, it did get a little better but certainly the last five years the reverse trend has occurred.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Alright, Professor Carrington, we're out of time but thank you so much for joining us.

KERRY CARRINGTON: Thank you very much for having me.