Youth detention Royal Commission can summons parents

p2359-tony-mcavoyBy ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Parents can be compelled to appear before the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children, currently under way in the Northern Territory.

 

The decision to call them would be made by a Counsel Assisting the Commission, a spokesperson told the Alice Springs News Online.

 

In the wake of claims in a keynote address by Congress CEO Donna Ah Chee at an Alice Springs conference last month, that children’s first few years are the key formative ones, we asked the Commission: “Will the parents of children in custody be required to appear before the commission?”

 

The commission replied initially: “The Commission is keen to hear from a wide range of people who have information relevant to the Commission’s inquiry – including case studies of children in detention.

 

“The Commission is collecting information in a range of ways including submissions, community engagement meetings and public hearings.”

 

We then drew the attention of the Commission to Ms Ah Chee’s speech and the community’s clear concern over the link between poorly supervised and cared for children and their antisocial, even criminal behaviour.

 

The Commissioners themselves had already heard strongly stated views on this issue from at least one person, Bess Price, former Minister with the NT Government. In a recent community meeting with the Commission in Alice Springs Ms Price challenged all present to think about the role of parents in the current crisis:  “Young ones are let loose out there on their own to fend for themselves.”

 

 

The Commission replied: “The Commission has the power to summons witnesses to appear and provide evidence to the Committee.

 

“Counsel Assisting will determine who should be called to give evidence before the Commission based on the particular issues arising over the course of the Commission.”

 

p2359-peter-callaghanThe two counsels assisting are Peter Callaghan SC (at left) and Tony McAvoy SC (top right).

 

According to the Commission’s website Mr Callaghan has previously worked as a Crown Prosecutor for the Commonwealth, ACT and Queensland Directors of Public Prosecutions until 1995 and in 2011 he was appointed as Counsel Assisting in the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry.

 

His other areas of practice include criminal law, appellate, administrative law, civil and human rights, discriminations, inquests, commissions of inquiry and statutory tribunals.

 

Mr McAvoy was admitted as a Barrister of the Supreme Court of NSW in January 2000 is the first indigenous Australian to be appointed as Senior Counsel in any Australian state or territory, according to the Commission’s website.

 

“He has a strong native title practice and has appeared for claimants in numerous successful land claims.

 

“His areas of practice also include administrative law, human rights and discrimination law, coronial inquests and criminal law.

 

“He was an Acting Part-Time Commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment Court between 2011 and 2013.”

 

 

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