Re-heated election promise a band-aid fix to broken Youth Justice system
10th February 2022
Katter’s Australian Party Deputy Leader and Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto is sceptical of today’s announcement that Townsville police numbers will be bolstered and said even an “army” of officers would be unable to quell the region’s youth crime crisis without a radical overhaul of the Queensland Youth Justice system.
Mr Dametto said that on the day Police Minister Mark Ryan travelled North to announce what was effectively a re-heated 2020 pre-election promise to provide more local police, news reports detailing a Townsville Magistrate’s scathing assessment of the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre had been published.
The Townsville Bulletin has today reported that when sentencing a 16-year-old boy who has an “extensive criminal history” and had previously been sent to detention 19 times, Magistrate Eoin Mac Giolla Ri said the centre was falling short of the “bare minimum … acceptable in a civilised society.” 
He was quoted as saying while the youth’s most recent offending would normally attract a sentence of six months, the trying conditions at Cleveland meant it was inappropriate to subject the teenager to further detention.
Mr Dametto said the Youth Justice Department’s claim in response to the news report that “COVID-19” was the reason behind the centre’s issues, which are largely exacerbated by staffing shortages, was laughable.
He said COVID-19 was a virus that could not indefinitely be held responsible for the impact of policy decisions made by governments.
“If the State Government cared enough to get to the heart of the problems it has with detention centres, it would quickly learn the reason it has a lack of staff has more to do with an intolerable work environment than it does with COVID-19,” the Hinchinbrook MP said.
“I am not going to comment on individual court cases but a situation where any offender – child or adult – cannot be sentenced appropriately and to the full extent of the law because of the Government’s inability to run its detention centres is unacceptable.”
Mr Dametto said Queensland’s Police and Youth Justice Ministers needed to respond to whistle-blowers’ allegations and acknowledge its detention centres were in crisis.
He also encouraged the Legal Affairs and Safety Committee to take his request for an inquiry into the State’s youth detention centres seriously and allow the voices of staff to be heard.