Statement from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on today’s High Court decision regarding treatment of children in detention

3 June 2020
Please attribute the following statement to Ben Slade, Principal at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

We welcome today’s High Court decision – this is a significant decision and we congratulate the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and their clients for taking and winning this long running action.

Today’s High Court decision makes it clear that there are limits on the use of force against children in detention. The Youth Justice Act imposes those limits and they must be honoured.

For years, the Northern Territory Government has argued in this case and in our class action that, under the Youth Justice Act, the Superintendent has the power to authorise assault, battery, isolation, the use of restraints and strip searching of children if necessary to maintain order in detention centres.

Today’s decision makes it clear that the power to authorise the use of force against children is limited and that assaults that go beyond these limits are unlawful. Children who have suffered harm as a consequence, of which there are many, deserve compensation.

Our class action goes to mediation in late 2020. In light of today’s decision we again call on the Northern Territory Government to offer fair compensation to each young person who has suffered human rights abuses in Northern Territory youth justice centres from 2006 to 2017. 

The amount of the compensation should recognise the serious harm caused to so many young people. We also ask for an apology and a promise that such behaviour will not be allowed to occur again.

Media inquiries: Jade Knight at Maurice Blackburn on 0417 969 438

Practice Areas: