The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, hosted a roundtable discussion about juvenile justice with Angus Mulready-Jones, the Lead Inspector for children in detention for HM Inspectorate of Prisons (UK).
The focus of the roundtable – held at the Commission this week- was the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in Australia, and how we might learn from the inspection system that operates in the UK.
Mr Mulready-Jones has responsibility for inspecting of young offenders' institutions, as part of the 21-agency strong UK National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), which builds on existing mechanisms established to monitor such facilities.He emphasised that independence was crucial to the success of the monitoring program.
Mr Mulready-Jones said during inspections, the NPM was permitted to visit any area of the prison being inspected. The NPM was also responsible for deciding the duration of the inspection. Such measures work to ensure that the UK’s inspection system is effective in terms of improving the conditions for prisoners.
The Lead Inspector also discussed the use of restraint against juvenile offenders, a topic that has recently received media coverage in both Queensland and the Northern Territory. He added, there is no method of restraint that is completely safe. But the more important issue, he said, is to understand why incidents escalate in the first place.
“We need much more emphasis to be placed on de-escalation,” said Mr Mulready-Jones.
Ms Mitchell closed the roundtable by thanking Mr Mulready-Jones for his insights into how the justice system can better protect the human rights of children and young people.
The Australian Government ratified OPCAT in December 2017 and is currently working towards implementation.