A boy, age unknown, was held in isolation for 23 days at the Brisbane watch house.
A boy, age unknown, was held in isolation for 23 days at the Brisbane watch house.

Queensland children ‘held like caged animals’

QUEENSLAND'S public guardian has expressed grave concerns about children being "held like caged animals" in police watch houses intended for adult offenders.

The ABC Four Corners program has obtained hundreds of documents detailing cases of children being held, sometimes for weeks, in adult watch houses because the state's youth detention centres are full.

"We have significant numbers of kids, from traumatised backgrounds, held like caged animals in concrete pens," Public Guardian Natalie Siegel-Brown reportedly told the ABC, citing one case where a girl was mistakenly held with alleged male sex offenders.

The programaccessed more than 500 files detailing cases of children as young as 10 who have spent time in Queensland's watch houses.

The documents include issue reports and other correspondence from community visitors in the Office of the Public Guardian who met with child inmates between January 2018 and March 2019.

In one case a girl was held with alleged male sex offenders.
In one case a girl was held with alleged male sex offenders.

In one case a boy aged under 14 was held at the Mareeba, Cairns and Brisbane watch houses. One email stated that the boy spent 34 days in a watch house, and that he "has to be released … served too long".

Another boy, age unknown, was held in isolation for 23 days at the Brisbane watch house. "He was worried about his birthday being forgotten," the file states.

In another case a girl, age unknown, lost a finger in a door at the Brisbane watch house.

"The girl had followed another young person out of their pod. A pod is a group of two or three cells with a common area. When the girl was returned to the pod, the door was shut and it cut off the top of her right middle finger. A nurse responded immediately and located the top of the finger," according to the file.

The girl was taken to hospital by ambulance where the top of her finger was reattached.

A girl, 16, learned she was about 11 weeks pregnant while being held at the Brisbane watch house for 25 days.

"The girl asked to be transferred out of the watch house so she could access proper pregnancy advice and consider her options. She was later transferred to a youth detention centre."

A boy under 14 spent 34 days in a watch house.
A boy under 14 spent 34 days in a watch house.

A boy, age unknown, attempted to take his life at the Brisbane watch house and was dressed in a "suicide smock".

Four Corners reports many of the children mentioned in the files have intellectual disabilities and psychological issues.

Some are accused of crimes like assault and break and enter, while others are on remand or have been charged with minor offences.

Some are refused bail because they are homeless, and so they end up in a watch house.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers says police are struggling to cope.

"We don't have the support or the facilities to be able to properly house these young people who are in custody," he told the program.

Queensland's Minister for Child Safety, Di Farmer, told Four Corners that the Government has no alternative.

"If a magistrate has ordered for them to be in the watch house and we cannot, do not have any space in the detention centre, then there is no alternative for them," she said.

Watch Mark Willacy's investigation, Inside the Watch House, tonight on Four Corners at 8.30pm on ABC TV and iview.

For help with emotional difficulties, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au



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