Gold Coast 17 Year Olds Shamefully Treated as Adults by our Criminal Justice System
Posted on 12/02/2013
Queensland’s insistence on treating 17 year olds as adults for criminal charges is a shameful policy that is out of step with the rest of Australia, according to Gold Coast criminal defence lawyer Andrew Moloney.
He said lawyers were appalled by the policy which was unique to Queensland and based on no special reason or legal principle. He is backing a campaign to change the law here and bring Queensland into line with other states where 18 is the age where defendants are regarded as adults.
Mr Moloney, of Gold Coast criminal defence law firm Moloney MacCallum Lawyers, said there was no room for compromise in the debate- treating 17 year olds as adults was ‘backward’ and the simple remedy was to treat Queensland youth the same as every other state in Australia.
“Seventeen year old Gold Coast kids, barely out of Year 12 at school, can go to prison for adult terms or be remanded in custody for lengthy periods in our crowded prison system, because our law says they are adults.
“Yet as 17 year olds they cannot participate in Society as adults – they can’t vote or drink alcohol or go to the pub. There have been repeated calls over the years for the anomaly to be fixed but successive governments have ignored it,” he said.
The issue is back in the news with an advocacy paper from the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian.
The advocacy paper has renewed the call for the Queensland Government to set the age for a child in the criminal justice system to under 18 and bring it into line with every other state and territory. The Australian Human Rights Commission has endorsed the call.
Mr Moloney said recent statistics reported that in 2011 there were 35 17 year olds in Queensland adult jails, 29 of them on remand.
“The LNP has reportedly refused to change Queensland’s out of step policy which beggars belief. It’s a shameful thing and there is no logical reason for Queensland to be out of step with the rest of Australia.
“I have had 17 year old clients remanded in adult prisons and the traumatising experience is not something you would wish on anyone, let alone someone still regarded in many ways as a child.
“If the age limit here was raised to 18 it would also stop a lot of the problems we have with underage Queensland Schoolies being arrested for alcohol offences.
“Interstate Schoolies are 18 and legally allowed in pubs. We don’t have the problems with them that we have with our own kids, all because of this backwards attitude toward the legal age of adulthood,” Mr Moloney said.
“Lawyers will be pushing the State Government this year to bring our adult age policy into line with the rest of Australia, as it should be,” he said.