Harsh conditions imposed on juveniles held in an adult jail after a riot at the State's only youth detention centre should be taken into account in sentences handed out by the Children's Court, court president Denis Reynolds has said.
In a ruling yesterday, Judge Reynolds raised concerns the two segregated units at Hakea Prison - where 70 juveniles have been held since the Banksia Hill riot in January - were not suitable for children and could breach the Young Offenders Act.
In a case involving three teenage boys awaiting sentencing for burglary offences, Judge Reynolds called for submissions from defence lawyers, prosecutors and the Department of Corrective Services about whether the change in detention should be taken into account.
"If evidence . . . shows the picture painted by the young offenders in these cases of lockdowns, the use of restraints, of strip searches and the absence or lack of programs is true, then that would mean that children in detention in this State are being treated more severely than adults," Judge Reynolds said.
"That would constitute a breach of the principle in (a section of the Young Offenders Act)."
Judge Reynolds concluded the prison culture in Hakea would "no doubt" impact on the young detainees "despite the best will of management".
"I do not think Units 11 and 12 could be properly said to be a facility suitable for young persons as required by . . . (the Young Offenders Act)," he said. "The fact that young detainees are being held in units constructed for adults and located in an adult prison, Hakea Prison, is enough by itself to constitute harshness."
At a hearing last week, defence lawyers Ben Tyers, John Hawkins and Chris Miocevich said the regime included inadequate access to education and rehabilitation, two weeks of round-the-clock lockdowns, minimal outdoor recreation and increased strip searches.Judge Reynolds was due to sentence the three teenagers yesterday, but he adjourned the case until next week to allow for submissions on the extent of the harshness being experienced by the three.
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.