• Queensland police have been accused of taunting, racially-profiling and strip searching Indigenous youth without cause. (AAP)
An inquiry into prison and reoffending in Queensland has uncovered disturbing allegations about police treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

Source:
NITV News
13 May 2019 - 9:21 AM  UPDATED 13 May 2019 - 9:21 AM

Queensland police have been accused of strip searching innocent Indigenous youth and bringing criminal charges against a child who broke a coffee mug.

The claims were uncovered by a Queensland Productivity Commission inquiry which seeks to reduce the high rates of imprisonment and recidivism across the state.  

In its submission to the inquiry, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) says children are facing criminal court for trivial offences. 

In one instance, an Indigenous child in a residential care facility was charged with wilful damage for "smashing a coffee mug", while a 12-year-old tenant faced the same charges for trying to paint over yellowing walls.

Another child who was jumping to touch low-hanging signs in a shopping centre was charged with wilful damage after one of the signs "disintegrated upon touch".

ATSILS CEO Shane Duffy said authorities should seek alternatives to criminal charges.

"Some matters, especially minor property matters, are inherently unsuitable for being dealt with in the criminal courts," he wrote. 

In another submission, a family support centre in Mt Isa accused police of racially profiling, taunting and strip-searching Indigenous youth without cause, "only turning on body-cams when they react" and "taking their phones if/when they try to film the interactions".

'The fact that the police don’t want to be filmed suggests that they are hiding something.'

Centre manager Chris Connors also alleged young people were being held in police watch houses overnight when it wasn't safe for them to go home.

“We believe this is a most inappropriate situation, bringing those young people into unnecessary contact with the criminal justice system, normalising incarceration and bringing them in contact with criminals," she wrote in her submission. 

Solicitor George Newhouse, who established the Copwatch program to encourage the Indigenous community to record encounters with police, said people were within their rights to film public interactions. 

"The fact that the police don’t want to be filmed suggests that they are hiding something," he told NITV News.

"Any police officer that is complying with the law has nothing to fear from being filmed performing their duty."

Marlene Longbottom, an Indigenous academic at the University of Wollongong, says she isn't surprised to hear reports of police targetting First Nations youth. 

The Yuin woman told NITV News her son and his cousins were strip searched during a routine roadside check in Brisbane in 2014.

No charges were laid. 

“It was a literal, down to their underwear on the side of the road, all three of the boys," she said.

"There is a real issue here with the way in which our kids our treated, how they’re spoken to and how they’re handled in this situation.”

The Queensland Productivity Commission will deliver its final report to the state government in August. 

NITV News has sought comment from Queensland police.

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