Young people occupy a vulnerable place in our society. They are still undergoing important brain development, and both behavioural psychology and neuroscience attest that adolescents are less able to control their impulses, plan ahead, and weigh the consequences of their decisions before acting.
Last week the LNP Government passed amendments to the Youth Justice Act. These amendments represent significant changes to the way in which the courts and our community treat children. Among the reforms include the removal of imprisonment as a last resort and secondly, the removal of prohibitions on the publication of child offenders (a green light for “naming and shaming” kids).
Last night, I participated in a discussion on Triple J’s Hack program where the Premier, Campbell Newman and I shared our views on these drastic changes to youth justice. For a link to the podcast of the program, click here.
On 19 March 2014, the Liberal Party introduced legislation to re-badge the Crime and Misconduct Commission as the Crime and Corruption Commission. The Bill is called the Crime and Misconduct and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014.
Under the proposed reforms in the Bill the government is seeking to focus the Commission’s work on more serious instances of corruption as opposed to misconduct. As a body designed to hold government to account, it is concerning that its oversight reach is being dramatically reduced. Misconduct, it seems, is no longer serious enough and only corruption is. Other changes concern the process for making a complaint.
In the Courier Mail of 19 March 2014 it was reported that Chief Magistrate Tim Carmody is lobbying the government to limit rights of appeal against decisions by Magistrates. Specifically, he wishes to remove the right of a person to appeal against a finding of fact by a Magistrate. Furthermore, he seeks to limit appeals to only serious questions of law.
The right to appeal is of fundamental importance in our criminal justice system. It is recognised in Queensland, Australia and internationally under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 14 of the ICCPR sets out the minimum fair trial garuantees. At Article 14(5), it states that:
“Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.”
This attack on appeal rights is concerning. The reality is that Magistrates are human beings and they, like any other individual, make mistakes in the exercise of their functions. Our government should not entertain the limitation of important fair trial rights which include the right to a proper appeal hearing.