No Surprises at Banksia Hill on Tuesday/Wednesday Morning
Thursday, 11 May 2023
The Law Society of Western Australia (the Law Society) has and continues to raise its concerns in relation to the manner in which the McGowan government and the Department of Justice are managing children and young people in detention centres at Banksia Hill and Unit 18, Casuarina, hence it came as no surprise that on Tuesday/Wednesday morning, almost 50 children and young people broke out from their cells, climbed roofs, and lit fires at Western Australia’s crisis-plagued Banksia Hill youth detention centre.
The Law Society has previously raised its concerns that the Department of Justice (the Department) has been – and is – unlawfully managing children and young people in detention centres at Banksia Hill and Unit 18, Casuarina. Regrettably, the Department is continuing to unlawfully:
- implement ‘rolling lockdowns’ when no confinement order exists, resulting in the solitary confinement of detainees in their cell for more than 20 hours a day across the whole or much of the centre(s); and
- make confinement orders because of staff shortages under the guise of the Young Offenders Act 1994 (the Act) and the Young Offenders Regulations 1995 (the Regulations); and
- use Behavioural Management policies, procedures and programs, that allow for the solitary confinement of detainees, and which circumvent and breach express provisions in the Act and Regulations on confinement.
The extended periods of cell incarceration are completely inappropriate for these children and this form of punishment is contrary to the object and purpose of the Young Offenders Act. The McGowan Government needs to urgently look at how it can redirect funding to the programmes that work to reduce the root causes of crime before behaviour escalates, and how to house children appropriately when either bail is inappropriate, or a custodial sentence is to be imposed.
The system is broken if juvenile detainees are being housed in conditions described as cruel and punishing, and as having no rehabilitative effect. What happened on Tuesday should not be the intent nor the impact of our justice system. Immediate action is required, and we cannot allow this situation to continue.
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For comment please contact:
Manager Corporate Communications
(08) 9324 8650
The Law Society of Western Australia is the peak professional association for lawyers in the State. The Society is a not-for-profit association dedicated to the representation of its more than 4,600 members. The Society enhances the legal profession through its position as a respected leader and contributor on law reform, access to justice and the rule of law. The Society is widely acknowledged by the legal profession, government and the community as the voice of the legal profession in Western Australia.