Police and Civil Liberties Council at a loss in how to deal with rampant indigenous youth crime:
Petford Farm program should be reinstated, demands Federal Member Warren Entsch
by Casey Briggs, ABC and Cairns News
A police operation to photograph and question unsupervised children on the streets of Mount Isa is illegal and should be stopped, according to civil libertarians.
Queensland’s Civil Liberties Council will ask the state’s privacy commissioner to investigate the operation, as politicians suggest the initiative could be expanded to other regional cities.
As part of Operation Tucson, children wandering the streets in the north-west Queensland mining town are being stopped, photographed, and in some cases driven home by Queensland Police Service (QPS) officers.
Officers record the child’s name, address, clothing and where they are going.
Queensland Civil Liberties Council vice-president Terry O’Gorman said he will send a submission to the Privacy Commissioner tomorrow morning, asking them to investigate.
“Police do not have the power, and should not have the power, to willy-nilly walk down the street, take photographs of people and put them on the major Queensland Police Service database,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“Stopping children, particularly Aboriginal juveniles, in the street at 2 o’clock in the afternoon simply to ask them what they’re doing is beyond the law, it’s illegal and it should be stopped.
“It’s also very bad for juvenile and police community relations.”
Mr O’Gorman is concerned about how the photographs will be used by the QPS.
“They must be being put on a police database: that’s the equivalent of these youths, many of whom have never committed a criminal offence, having a criminal record,” he said.
In the three weeks the operation has been running, officers have stopped children 500 times.
Queensland Police said the photographs will be kept confidential, and won’t be shared with other agencies or bodies.
“We respect the rights of individuals, and most times people are very supportive and cooperative of what we do,” said Acting Assistant Commissioner Kev Guteridge.
“We’ll try and link [the data] back to other offences that may have been reported to identify those people as either offenders in other offences, or more importantly clear their name if they weren’t responsible.”
“We’re out there trying to protect the community — if there was anything sinister involved we certainly wouldn’t be involved in that.”
Meanwhile the Member for Leichardt, Warren Entsch has called on the State Government to reinstate the highly successful Petford Farm program which operated west of Cairns for three decades.
Petford Farm program developer Geoff Guest OAM, over 30 years has successfully rehabilitated more than 3000 youths and older visitors with his ground breaking program which breaks the substance abuse cycle.
Former Labor Premier Anna Bligh withdrew funding for the Petford facility 10 years ago because she believed Mr Guest and wife Norma’s methods were too harsh.
The Petford program has long been supported by Professor Ernest Hunter, former head of the Indigenous Mental Health faculty at James Cook University because of its effectiveness, which does not rely on the use of prescription drugs such as Ritalin or other behavioural suppressants.
Member for Kennedy Bob Katter and Mt Isa MP Robbie Katter have both called for relocation sentencing incorporating the Petford program.
On the weekend Mr Guest said he would be prepared to advise any new rehabilitation facility about adopting his program.
Calls to expand Mt Isa operation
It comes as two far north Queensland MPs back the idea of running an interception operation in Cairns similar to that of Mt Isa.
Federal Government Liberal MP Warren Entsch said the operation in Mount Isa “makes a lot of sense”.
“I don’t know how you can justify children as young as eight years old roaming the streets at 10 o’clock at night … other than they’re there for mischief, or their parents can’t control them,” he said.
There is growing community concern in Cairns over car thefts, with a record 767 cars stolen in the past year.
There is no solution of the kind that can be talked of in civil society.
Thank you Larry we don’t feel so isolated now. The UN is firmly in control. Thank you. Editor
In San Francisco (USA), we have a worsening epidemic of smash and grab car break-ins and robberies. You cannot walk on the sidewalk in Golden Gate Park without seeing smashed auto window glass at intervals on every day of the year.
Liberalism invites and encourages lawlessness.