Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Police violating youth rights

A report out today from the Human Rights Commission and "Independent" Police Conduct Authority criticises the police for systematic (if unintentional) violations of youth rights, with young people held for prolonged periods, in inadequate conditions, denied basic needs such as food and showers, and denied access to lawyers:

Last year, 213 young people were remanded in custody for an average of 1.9 days. Of those, 148 were initially arrested on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and were generally held until Monday.

The report said most youths were held because of no suitable alternatives, no availability to transport, or because of the day of the week they were arrested.

Police cells were never intended for the detention of young people, and there were practices which violated, or were at risk of violating, accepted human rights standards, it said.

Some youths had cell lights on 24 hours a day to allow suicide monitoring, a lack of ventilation and natural light, inadequate food, or no access to shower facilities.

Young people also reported being treated as adults, with the use of force, or feeling discriminated against.

The HRC / IPCA make recommendations, including better facilities in police stations and greater training for police to ensure that young people are not treated like other suspects, but are instead treated in accordance with their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Which is good, but in a time when budget cuts mean that police are being denied basic investigation or firearms training, seems unlikely to actually happen. The HRC needs to continue to monitor this issue, to make sure the police actually implement these recommendations. Otherwise, we may see basic human rights of young people sacrifice don the altar of National's austerity.