Child detention changes labelled Qld's 'darkest hours'

Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

The Palaszczuk government has rejected a chorus of criticism over a raft of new laws allowing children to be held in police watch houses, a move condemned as the "darkest hours" in Queensland politics.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said amendments to the youth justice laws were difficult but ultimately essential to ensure community safety. 

The amendment follows a pivotal Supreme Court ruling against the Police Commissioner and Youth Justice Department over the lawfulness of holding remanded children in police watch houses, rather than in youth detention centres.

The ruling led the government to urgently revise the act in amendments attached to a child safety bill.

"We had legal advice that a recent court case that set a precedent on the basis of a technicality that had invalidated the process used for more than 30 years here in Queensland, in the circumstances where a young offender has been charged with an offence but there is not suitable space within a youth detention centre," Mr Miles told reporters on Friday. 

"We were advised by the solicitor-general that if we didn't make these changes immediately, the young people in watch houses would need to be released to the community." 

The Palaszczuk government maintained the decision would affect an average of 40 juveniles held in remote facilities where youth detection was not available.

"I want to underline this factor - the young people in watch houses, on average, are facing between 20 and 30 charges, and they are not there for non-violent offences.

"Police hold young people in watch houses where they are a risk to the community and the risk of reoffending and where they have been charged with violent offences - murder, rape, car stealing, ramming police with cars.

"We were faced with a very difficult situation - legal advice that said the only way we could keep the community safe was if we immediately addressed the technicality the court had found.

"So that's what we did."

The Palaszczuk government's steadfast defence continues to draw harsh criticism from the opposition, the Greens and Katter's Australian Party that the legislation was rushed through parliament without proper scrutiny.

"We witnessed perhaps the darkest 24 hours in Queensland parliament in a long, long time," opposition leader David Crisafulli told reporters on Friday.

"Queenslanders weren't listened to, and the entire parliamentary process was used as a doormat by the state government," Mr Crisafulli said of the amendments.

"No one wins when that happens." 

Advocates such as the Queensland Human Rights Council, the Queensland Law Society and the Queensland Council of Social Service have roundly criticised the changes.

However, Mr Miles said the amendments formalise a practice that has been in place for 30 years and the government had little choice but to make the necessary changes.

"We had to make the best choice we could faced with the facts that we had, and that's one of the challenges of being in government.

"The community overwhelmingly said to us that they are concerned about violent offenders being released to the community without proper rehabilitation, and so we've heeded that message."