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Urgent injunction filed to return children from adult maximum-security prison

A Sydney firm has filed an urgent injunction in the Federal Court to maintain the human rights of the children who have been forcibly transferred to a maximum-security adult prison. 

user iconJess Feyder 25 October 2022 Big Law
Urgent injunction filed to return children from adult maximum-security prison
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Sydney firm, Levitt Robinson, is representing hundreds of children in two prospective class actions for severe mistreatment, human rights violations, and unlawful discrimination in Banksia Hill Detention Centre and Unit 18, located in Casuarina Maximum-Security Adult Prison. 

Levitt Robinson filed an injunction that seeks to prevent the further transfer of young people to “Unit 18” and to have those children currently incarcerated in Unit 18 transferred as a matter of urgency to a facility that is “fit for purpose”, given that: 

  • The Western Australia Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services (OICS), Eamon Ryan, concluded in his March 2022 report that Banksia Hill Detention Centre is not fit for purpose and reports of continued mistreatment of children in the Unit 18 facility; 
  • Justice Tottle of the Western Australia Supreme Court declared on 25 August 2022 that the rolling lockdowns imposed on children at Banksia Hill Detention Centre were unlawful.
In July 2022, the West Australian Department of Justice and Corrective Services announced its intention to use Unit 18 as an extension of the Intensive Support Unit (ISU) at Banksia Hill Detention Centre.


There was harsh judicial and public criticism, including by former West Australian Children’s Court president, retired judge Denis Reynolds, as well as the current West Australian Children’s Court president Judge Hylton Quail regarding the lengthy mistreatment and solitary requirement for 79 days of one of the applicants to the urgent injunction.

His Honour stated in sentencing remarks in February 2022: “When you treat a damaged child like an animal, they will behave like an animal ... When you want to make a monster, this is how you do it ...

“The conditions of [the boy’s] detention have not met the minimum standards the community and court expects and the law requires ... I’m satisfied that [his] deteriorating behaviour in detention is directly linked to the conditions of his detention, the lengthy lockdowns he has been subject to, the failure to provide him with psychological care, education programs, stimulation, and consistent support.”

Stewart Levitt, senior partner at Levitt Robinson, commented: “The application for urgent injunction was necessary in circumstances where, despite our calls for WA Premier Mark McGowan to urgently intervene, address and stop the substantial human rights violations occurring within Unit 18, Premier McGowan and his Western Australian Labor government have doubled down in defence of their decision to transfer more children to Unit 18 and allow the gross abuses of the human rights of highly vulnerable and severely disabled Western Australian children to continue unabated.” 

Since the forcible transfers of children began in July 2022, skyrocketing rates of serious self-harm and suicide by children forcibly transferred and incarcerated in Unit 18 have been reported. 

Rather than attempting to redesign the broken tax-payer-funded system and make it fit for purpose, the Department of Justice and Corrective Services has instead doubled down on the transfer of highly vulnerable and disabled West Australian children to Unit 18, Levitt Robinson said in a statement. 

“[This is] despite it being incompatible with the objectives and general principles of youth justice contained in the Young Offenders Act 1994 and in accordance with Australia’s obligations at international law, namely to rehabilitate rather than harshly and cruelly punish, the children, so that they can be redeemed as constructive members of Western Australian society and thereby put taxpayers fund to good use rather than wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ dollars in ‘creating monsters’ who will go on to be a perpetual burden on taxpayers ad infinitum for both criminal justice services and health services,” it said.

The urgent injunction application has been filed at a time when international scrutiny is bearing down upon Australia’s youth justice crisis as inspectors from the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture arrived in Australia this week with plans to conduct surprise visits on state, territory and Commonwealth detention facilities over 12 days. 

The matter is listed for mention on Tuesday, 25 October 2022, in the Federal Court of Australia in Perth. The children are represented by specialist human rights barrister Benedict Coyne.