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Attorney-General and Justice – Ashley Youth Detention Centre


Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Tags: Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Courts, Youth Justice

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, a disproportionate number of young people are sent to remand at Ashley Youth Detention Centre outside the normal operating hours of the Magistrates Court, and they are disproportionately from the north and north-west. Very few of them, only serious young offenders, are sent to Ashley from the south.

Lawyer Sebastian Buscemi states that this is because there is no magistrate at the after hours night court in Launceston. Instead, when Tasmania Police bring young people into the Launceston night court, a police prosecutor and JP are presiding. Picked up often for very minor offences such as theft, these teenagers are invariably sent to Ashley on remand. They are sent into an unsafe environment for want of a properly resourced court in Launceston. A magistrate hears matters outside business hours in Hobart. No lawyer is present for these preliminary hearings in Launceston, and that is a grave denial of justice to young Tasmanians accused of crimes and facing purgatory at Ashley.

Minister, can you confirm that a disproportionate number of young people who are sent into an unsafe environment at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre are from the north and north west, in significant part because, unlike the Hobart night court, you do not fund a magistrate to hear matters after hours in Launceston?

Ms ARCHER - As you are well aware, Ashley itself and youth come under the portfolio of Children, which is Mr Jaensch, so I do not have figures in relation to detainees.

What I can say is that if a youth is remanded in custody in an out-of-hours sitting, the matter is adjourned to the next business day in the Magistrates Court, obviously in the Youth Justice Division. At that time, the issue of bail is revisited, and legal representation is arranged through a private legal representative for Legal Aid Tasmania or the Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service.

Recently, members will recall we have appointed an additional magistrate, Magistrate Hartnett. You will find, under Reserved By Law, funding of $172 000 was provided in last year's Budget to allow for that magistrate's position. Magistrate Hartnett commenced on 29 June 2020, and so this funding increases to $345 000 in the 2020-21 year.

From this year, the 2020 21 Operating Services funding of $576 000 is also provided to cover a court clerk for the new magistrate administrative support, and additional expenses such as security and transcribing documents. The reason I mention this is that the additional magistrate will go a long way to dealing with matters in a timely way.

Dr WOODRUFF - You didn't answer the specific question.

Ms ARCHER - It's hard because it is mixed into some of my area and some of Justice.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is not mixed into Ashley. I asked whether you fund a magistrate to hear matters after hours in Launceston?

Ms ARCHER - What I did address, and the secretary can fill in some things, was what the current situation is in relation to out-of-hours appearances. I will ask the department secretary for further detail on that.

Ms WEBSTER - Thank you. Bench justices hear after-hours court matters in both Hobart and Launceston.

Dr WOODRUFF - Can you explain what a bench justice is? Is a bench justice a justice of the peace? What we are trying to understand is whether young people who are detained by the police and then held and moved into Ashley Youth Detention Centre, whether the decision about that movement is made by a properly qualified magistrate in Launceston or, as we understand, by a police prosecutor and a JP. Is that what you mean by a bench justice, a JP with effectively the same powers?

Ms ARCHER - It's a higher level of JP. I don't have the definition in front of me.

Dr WOODRUFF - Is it correct though that it is by a police prosecutor and a bench justice or justice of the peace, but not by a magistrate?

Ms ARCHER - Some of this is operational. I don't want to assume anything in this regard so I will take that on notice in relation to the police prosecution. That is Tasmania Police; it is not my portfolio so I would feel more comfortable checking with what the arrangements are in that regard to who prosecutes on those matters. Not as in who prosecutes but who would be present.

Dr WOODRUFF - Chair, I will put that on notice.

Ms ARCHER - There are a lot of cross agencies involved in these things. I would prefer to get you an accurate answer about the specific question you are asking.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. Can you can confirm that no lawyer is present when Tasmania Police bring alleged young offenders into the night court, no legal aid is provided and that these adolescents who are being picked up for minor offences, or petty crimes such as theft, are not told of their rights to legal representation?

Ms ARCHER - Part of that's an allegation that I would take on notice so I can get you an accurate answer in relation to a number of issues you have raised. I don't have personal knowledge of that so I will take it on notice.

Dr WOODRUFF - So I will put the question about legal representation on notice?

Ms ARCHER - Yes.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you.

 

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I accept you don't know the situation enough to be able to give me a response now about the questions I asked earlier about young people being remanded to Ashley from Launceston. But would you agree that a justice system that would not provide at-risk young people with legal representation and the right to a well-resourced and trauma-informed court process, one that would by default send them into a dangerous environment, would that be a justice system that would be utterly failing young Tasmanians?

Ms ARCHER - I have said at the outset that what I want for our justice system is an effective and efficient justice system, that provides access to justice, that we follow the rule of law. It's a difficult one that you've asked because I do not have oversight of children in custody. Indeed, we're also getting into the Corrections portfolio here, and I welcome -

Dr WOODRUFF - With respect, this is exactly about a magistrate making decisions. That's all I'm talking about. Access to legal representation and decisions made by a magistrate. I'm not talking about anything to do with that.

Ms ARCHER - Chair, I was mid-sentence then and I would really appreciate an opportunity because I was about to acknowledge the presence of the Administrator of the Magistrates Court, Ms Penny Ikedife, who is able to respond to some of those questions because they are operational in nature and I'm very happy for her to take those questions.

What I can say about our overall justice system is exactly what I've just said - that I want an effective and just justice system that is fair. That's one of the reasons we have a disability justice plan and other measures within my department. What you've asked about does cross over into another minister's area. But, in relation to the court, and some of those issues that you've asked about operational matters, I'm very happy for Ms Ikedife to address those.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, minister. Do I need to restate the questions so that - she's nodding.

Ms ARCHER - Apart from those that require an opinion. But, if you're after those statistics, for example, or the use of magistrates, she's able to address that as an operational matter.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay, thank you. The questions that I asked previously weren't about statistics. They were about whether young people who are brought into the Launceston night court appear before a police prosecutor and a justice of the peace, or a bench justice, which is the same person but given a slightly different role, or whether they appear before a magistrate.

The second part of the question was: are young people who are taken to that process informed of their right to legal representation, and provided with legal representation?

Ms IKEDIFE - Through you, Attorney. Yes, I can indicate that a bench justice sits in all of the after-hours courts statewide, including Launceston. The bench justice is a justice of peace with additional training and ongoing access at any time of the day or night to a magistrate should they need to ask any questions.

I can indicate that Police Prosecutions prosecute matters in after-hours courts, including youth justice matters. I can't answer the part of the question that relates to whether youths are advised of their right to legal representation, but I can indicate that in the Launceston after-hours court, youth justice workers are generally present when a youth appears before the court and they are able and do provide submissions to the bench justice in relation to that young person's circumstances. They may not appear in all cases.

Dr WOODRUFF - Through you, minister, thank you for that. Do you have the figures? Would we be able to get the figures, minister, for the court remand data for young offenders, broken down by region in Tasmania? The north, the north-west and the south, and whether a determination about that remand was made by a magistrate, or by a bench justice or justice of the peace?

Ms ARCHER - You can either take that on notice or answer it depending on if you have the information at your fingertips.

Ms IKEDIFE - I don't have that information at my fingertips, but I can indicate that any after-hours youth justice matter would be dealt with by a bench justice not a magistrate.

As to numbers, I'm not in a position to provide those at the moment.

Dr WOODRUFF - It's not the case that there's a magistrate who hears night court in the south? I had been told that was the case. That's not true?

Ms IKEDIFE - It's not the case. There's a bench justice in every after-hours court statewide.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you. Can I write that down and provide that to you for the data I just asked for, the figures, and put that on notice?

Ms ARCHER - The figures? Yes.