Tough new measures aimed at young offenders in Queensland could actually increase crime, lawyers and Amnesty International have warned.
Queensland could soon have the harshest laws in Australia if Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie does away with the principle of detention as a last resort for young criminals.
Under the government’s plans, young offenders would also be named and shamed and transferred to adult jails when they turn 17.
The Queensland Law Society opposed the majority of the recommendations at a public hearing at parliament house on Monday.
It said the naming and shaming plan would stigmatise young offenders, hurt their rehabilitation prospects, and could increase recidivism by strengthening bonds with criminal sub-cultures.
Sentencing young people to detention actually increases the likelihood of them returning to detention.
The law society also rubbished reports that youth crime is on the rise.
It quoted from the children’s court’s annual report, which pointed to a 6.9 per cent drop in youth crime in 2011/12, and an even larger fall the year before.
It also pointed to evidence of fewer young people going through the courts, but a rise in the total number of charges, indicating an increasing problem with repeat offenders.
The law society says the government should be focused on intervention programs for those repeat offenders.
“What we do know is that sentencing young people to detention actually increases the likelihood of them returning to detention, entering the adult criminal justice system, and that provides less protection to the community,” principal policy adviser Matthew Dunn told parliament’s legal affairs committee.
Amnesty International, which has 40,000 members in Queensland, also expressed grave concerns about the government’s plans.
It said the changes were in direct conflict with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which says the arrest, detention and imprisonment of young people should be a last resort.
Amnesty’s government relations manager Louise Allen urged the committee to consider overwhelming evidence pointing to the ineffectiveness of the proposals.
“This bill risks having serious and long-term detrimental consequences on the lives of at-risk young kids,” Ms Allen said.