Barclay White

High number of kids still seen in courtrooms

THE percentage of kids called before the Rockhampton Magistrates Court dropped dramatically in 2014-15 - but is still higher than nearby cities.

According to a report into Queensland's Magistrates Courts tabled in parliament, just 3.98% of Rockhampton court defendants in 2014-15 were children.

The year before 6.72% of all Rockhampton defendants were children.

But the 2014-15 figure is higher than the percentage of kids in Gladstone and Mackay magistrates courts.

In Mackay 3.78% of all defendants were children and in Gladstone 2.64% of defendants were children.

University of Queensland youth justice lecturer Dr Suzanna Fay-Ramirez said statewide there was a trend of more children facing court - but facing fewer charges.

She said the statistics could not prove whether there was an increase in youth crime or a more targeted approach from police.

She said the number of children facing court in Queensland had increased since 2012 after the Campbell Newman government's changes to the youth justice system but there could be significant changes year-to-year.

She said the former government's moves to minimise the use of youth conferencing and removing provisions making court a last resort for minors had impacted the numbers.

"Previous to Campbell Newman's changes, detention and criminal courts were seen as a last resort. We had this thing called youth conferencing which was a proven way of getting to children before they went to court," she said.

"That wasn't ended but it was reduced under Campbell Newman's changes."

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath has promised to roll back these changes - stating in December 2015 she would again make court the last resort for minors.

But shadow attorney-general Ian Walker said the LNP's measures were working and while they'd look at proposed legislation, they would not guarantee support for any changes.



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