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NT Law Society urges government to commit to ‘broken’ youth justice system

The Law Society Northern Territory has urged its state government to reform what’s being described as a broken youth justice system.

user iconEmma Musgrave 15 November 2018 Politics
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In particular, the NT Law Society said it is disappointed and concerned about recent events occurring at the local Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, such as the break out of a riot which left a worker injured and saw the temporary closure of its centre for days. 

"Six months ago we were heartened by the Northern Territory’s positive response to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory," said president Maria Savvas.


“We welcomed Michael Gunner’s announcement that his government had accepted the intent and direction of all 227 recommendations, and his commitment to reform our broken youth justice system. However, recent incidents in our youth detention centres, culminating in the serious disturbances at Don Dale [recently], have badly shaken our confidence in the government’s capacity to make the changes required.”

Ms Savvas noted that while the Society does not seek to excuse criminal offences, even when committed by children, “it is clear to our members who work at the youth justice coalface that the recent incidents are an all but inevitable outcome of confining these children, most of whom are on remand and presumed innocent, in deplorable conditions little better than those which led to the royal commission being called in the first place”.

“It is unacceptable and arguably unlawful to detain children for lengthy periods in overcrowded cells without access to sunlight, exercise, and meaningful education or other structured activity”, she said.

“It is not too late for the Gunner government to get the reform process back on the rails, but to do so requires political will and the courage to stick to the principles and program laid out for us by the royal commission. It is imperative that the government redouble its efforts to get and keep children out of detention.”