Abusive Treatment of Children in Juvenile Justice

Young Indigenous people are 17 times more likely to be in detention than other Australians. Despite only 5% of the general population are Aboriginal persons aged 10-17, they make up almost half of those under youth justice supervision. The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare youth justice report also found 39% of young Indigenous people were aged 10-13 when they first came into the justice system, compared to only 15% of non-Indigenous young people. Along with the gross over-representation of Indigenous persons in detention, many cases of abusive treatment in juvenile centres have come to light. Last year, Leaum Doolan, an 18-year-old Aboriginal man, took legal action against the Government for alleged abuse by guards during his time in a juvenile justice centre.

Mr Doolan’s Allegations of abuse

Mr Doolan was 16 at the time of the alleged incidents in 2016. It was there he claims that he was subject to abuse by the guards at the centre that he was held.

He makes several allegations including that:

  1. He was locked in solitary confinement for at least 22 hours a day for a month. During this time, the guards called him derogatory names.
  2. He was handcuffed during “recreation” time which amounted to assault and battery.
  3. He was refused reading glasses and kept in a caged, enclosed area when out of his cell.

Mr Doolan believes that the guards treated him inhumanely.  He says that their conduct crossed the line of acceptable treatment of children in detention. He is seeking:

  • damages for loss of liberty and dignity,
  • aggravated damages based on his age and the alleged degrading treatment,
  • and exemplary damages.

Mr Doolan’s alleged circumstances provide just one example of instances where individuals have been abused by those in positions of authority.

Treatment of Children and Young People in Juvenile Justice

2016 was the year that brought to attention the atrocious treatment of young people in detention. The Northern Territory Royal Commission into Youth Detention and Child Protection was announced that year. This was after the Don Dale controversy revealed that children as young as thirteen being abused, assaulted and belittled inside the detention centre. The formation of the Royal Commission brought about a magnifying glass into how children are treated within detention and the criminal justice systems all around the country.

Since the release of the final report late last year, the Northern Territory Government has developed a five-year plan to implement the recommendations with the aim of reforming the Territory’s broken youth justice system.

During the same year in 2016, the media also reported several cases of boys being subjected to lengthy periods of isolation in NSW detention facilities. This triggered NSW Corrections Minister David Elliot calling for the independent review of the NSW juvenile justice system. However, nearly two years later, the final report has yet to have publication by independent Inspector of Custodial Services, Fiona Rafter.

It appears that little has been done to ensure that young people are treated fairly inside youth detention centres in NSW. Greater urgency is required for the final report’s production to allow for more informed decision-making by the Government in respect of the management of the NSW Juvenile Justice Centres.

A law firm that passionately advocates for children’s rights

Our principal solicitor, Peter O’Brien, is a prized children’s advocate, having been awarded for his outstanding representation of children in the legal system. He represented Dylan Voller before the Northern Territory Royal Commission, and many thousands of others seeking redress for abuse or representing them within the criminal justice system. Peter has assisted many young people to secure settlements with authorities that have mistreated them.  Read his earlier article discussing the extent of juvenile justice issues in Australia.

Our firm also has other solicitors who are experienced in representing children and young clients in the Children’s Court for criminal proceedings, in civil matters against the police and defamation proceedings against publishers. If you, or someone you know is a child or young person that requires legal advice or representation, speak to us today.

Call us on (02) 9261 4281 to book a free first consultation.

Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre
Leaum Doolan, an 18-year-old Aboriginal man, is suing the Government for alleged abuse by guards during his time in Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre.

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O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors
p: 02 9261 4281
a: Level 4, 219-223 Castlereagh St,
Sydney NSW 2000

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