Thursday, August 18, 2011

Juvenile detention centre laws challenged

Geoff Chambers | The Daily Telegraph | August 18, 2011 

PROPOSED bail law changes which would keep kids out of packed juvenile detention centres are being challenged by the state's top prosecutor.

In a submission to the Law Reform Commission, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions disputed the need to repeal a section of the Bail Act, blamed for keeping too many youths behind bars.

Of the 17 submissions lodged with the commission as part of the Bail Act review, the ODPP was the highest-profile agency to resist a major overhaul.

Section 22A effectively limits people to one bail application. "No (it should not be repealed). Sensibly (section 22A) provides a court has power to decline to hear an application where it has heard and considered a previous application in the same case by the same accused unless there are new grounds," the submission said.

"The provision does not specify what 'grounds' means - leaving the accused with widest possible options should a change of circumstances occur." The DPP does not back a separate Bail Act provision for juveniles but has previously supported Bail Hostel services.

In its submission, Corrective Services argued for the bail changes on the basis it was struggling to manage an "increasing [adult] inmate population". "The diverse and difficult to manage mix of offenders is complicated by an increase in the number of inmates who are on remand," the department said.

The number of adult prisoners on remand has jumped 254 per cent since 1994 - coupled with a 55 per cent spike in the number of full-time inmates. The average cost of remanding inmates at the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre is $163.50 a day - higher than the daily cost for prisoners in mainstream jail. As at June, there were 405 juvenile offenders on remand.

"Corrective Services supports a number of previous submissions made to the 2010 consultation paper that children and young people should be considered separately to adults when bail is granted or refused," the department said.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said DPP Lloyd Babb had gone "out on a limb" by blocking changes to the Act. "In the few short years since 22A was put on the statute books the numbers on remand have ballooned, costing millions without a shred of evidence it has reduced crime," Mr Shoebridge said.

Mr Babb's position appears to be a rebuff to Attorney-General Greg Smith, who has campaigned for changes to the Bail Act to ease the stress on the juvenile justice system.

Retired supreme court judge Hal Sperling, who is leading the review, will report back by November.

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