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Law Council questions anti-terror laws targeting 14 year olds

Law Council questions anti-terror laws targeting 14 year olds

Fiona McLeod, Law Council of Australia

The Law Council of Australia has voiced its concern over the proposed changes to Australia’s counter-terrorism laws, which would see the minimum age for control orders lowered to 14 years old.

On Monday night the Federal Government announced changes to the nation’s counter-terrorism laws, including that control orders may be applied to terror suspects as young as 14.

A control order places restrictions on where the subject can go, who they can meet, whether they can access the internet and can require them to wear a tracking device. 

NSW Premier Mike Baird advocated the change of the minimum age from 16 to 14 penning a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull following the shooting of a police accountant by 15-year-old Farhad Jabar.

The Law Council of Australia treasurer Fiona McLeod SC (pictured) said: “The Law Council cautions against hasty and reactive amendments to legislation where the freedoms of children are at stake.”

She continued: “If control orders prior to conviction are to be maintained and the age of application lowered to 14 years, the regime needs to ensure it contains suitable safeguards and that it is a necessary and appropriate response to the threat of terrorism.”

The Independent National Security Monitor (INSLM) is reviewing the adequacy of safeguards in the control order regime of the Criminal Code Act to strengthen its protections, according to Ms McLeod.

She also highlighted the limited amount of experience there is to prove control orders are an effective tool and that there is even evidence from the UK that control orders can act as an impediment to prosecution.

“Control orders can involve significant restrictions on a person’s liberty without following the normal criminal process of arrest, charge and prosecution, and determination of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said.

The amendment will be included in the fifth instalment of national security legislation, which will be introduced to parliament in November.

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