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Childrens Court media access, detention scrutinized

Some media organizations do not deserve access to Queensland’s Childrens Court due to inaccurate reporting, a state parliamentary committee has been told.

An advocacy group on Friday said Queensland media had repeatedly shown it was not capable of balanced reporting on youth offending, accusing organizations of ignoring crime data.

Youth Advocacy Center CEO Katherine Hayes has made the claim to a Queensland parliamentary committee discussing a bill that will enable media to be present at some Childrens Court criminal proceedings.

The bill also seeks to increase the maximum penalty for possessing a knife in a public place or school along with a number of other proposed reforms amid a youth crime crackdown.

“The overall youth offenders rate has dropped dramatically over the last few years and that’s never reported,” Ms Hayes said.

Youth Advocacy Centre’s Katherine Hayes criticized “misrepresented data and inflammatory headlines”. (HANDOUT/YOUTH ADVOCACY CENTER)

“The data is constantly misrepresented and headlines are inflammatory.”

Data from the Queensland Statistician’s Office shows the rate of youth criminals has decreased by 26.8 per cent in nine years since 2013.

“So the media, I don’t think, has shown that it deserves to be called into open courts, particularly in regional and remote areas where there may be a lack of matters to report,” Ms Hayes said.

She said “open justice” was required to report on court matters.

“Open justice means full information, fair reporting, no misinformation and that’s not what’s happening now,” she said.

The committee also heard submissions from the Queensland Family and Child Commission, which pointed to a “wasteful system” of locking up children in detention centres.

Principal commissioner Luke Twyford said youth justice policy had been weaponized and detention centers have proven to be ineffective.

“Detention does not work,” he said.

“The Child Death Review board has this year made very strong recommendations that we are spending millions of taxpayers dollars on a machine that is working less than five per cent of the time – it is a wasteful system.

“Unless we rethink the purpose of detention, we will not achieve community safety.”

The Child Death Review report released in March revealed Queensland locked up more children than the rest of the country.

“Until we rethink what rehabilitation actually is and what it looks like, we’ll continue to come here discussing legislation that is purporting to be tough on crime but hasn’t produced the necessary evidence to show how it will cease crime,” Mr Twyford he said.

Queensland is set to almost double its youth detention system’s capacity with the construction of an 80-bed facility in Woodford, north of Brisbane, by 2026 and another to be operational in Cairns a year later.

Non-profit organizations are also being offered a share in $55 million funding to create dedicated stand-alone spaces that integrate youth offenders back into education across Mount Isa, Townsville, Cairns and Ipswich.

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