Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in the context of Youth Justice Detention Centres
1. The Law Council of Australia is pleased to participate in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) inquiry into how the special needs and interests of children and young people under the age of 18 in youth justice detention centres could be considered and monitored by a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM) under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
2. The inquiry seeks to examine the current oversight, complaints and monitoring mechanisms relating to the treatment and rights of children and young people in detention, and how the ratification of OPCAT and the establishment of a NPM would benefit children and young people in detention.
3. The Commission’s inquiry also raises the issue of the age of criminal responsibility in Australian jurisdictions, which is currently 10 years of age, in light of recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that 12 should be the minimum.
4. As part of the inquiry, the National Children’s Commissioner has conducted a Roundtable in each State and Territory with key stakeholders, including Law Council representatives in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Some of the Law Council Constituent Bodies also attended Roundtables across Australia.
5. The Law Council’s submission is limited to responding to the following questions: a. Are the current oversight, complaints and monitoring mechanisms relating to the treatment and rights of children and young people in detention (youth justice centres and adult facilities) adequate? If not, how could they be improved?
b. How could the ratification of OPCAT and the establishment of a NPM benefit children and young people in detention?
c. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC) does not specify what the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be. However the CRC recommends 12 years of age should be the minimum. The CRC has noted Australia's non-compliance with this standard and it has recommended Australia raise its minimum age of criminal responsibility. What is your view on this?