Alleged criminals being kept in watch houses for weeks
Central Queensland alleged criminals have been spending weeks in the watch-house waiting for prison places to become available and some have not been getting mail from their lawyers while being held on remand.
Rockhampton lawyers have contacted The Morning Bulletin after discovering the unjust treatments their clients have received while being held in custody in Queensland.
One lawyer, who did not want his name to be published, said one of his clients was kept in Rockhampton’s watch-house for 16 days before being moved to a prison.
He said this was becoming a common occurrence, leading to safety concerns for watch house staff.
The lawyer said the safety concerns arose as the watch-house became crowded with so many waiting so long to be transported to a correctional centre, leading to tension, frustration and anger among prisoners.
Another lawyer, who also did not want his name to be published, who knew about the watch-house issues, recently discovered some Queensland prisoners were not receiving their mail.
He said the issue came to the knowledge of Central Queensland prosecutors recently and partly involved people being held on remand who did not have a lawyer and who were not receiving their Briefs of Evidence and QP9s sent by police prosecutors.
The second lawyer then tested this information, sending mail to two of his clients in separate correctional centres – Woodford and Capricornia – via registered post.
One is being held on remand for money laundering and the other for attempted murder.
The mail receipt from Australia Post showed the mail to Woodford arrived, but when the lawyer checked with the client later that day, the client had not received any mail relating to their matters before the courts.
People held in Queensland correctional centres and watch houses have rights to be treated humanely, communicate privately with their legal representatives and have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defence under Queensland’s Human Rights Act.
The second lawyer said prisoners not receiving their Briefs of Evidence, QP9s or other legal mail were unable to give their lawyers instructions on how to proceed with their matters as they did not know what the allegations were against them.
The Morning Bulletin approached the Queensland Human Rights Commission, Queensland Police Union, Queensland Corrective Services, Rockhampton MP Barry O’Rourke, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga, Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman and Community Legal Centres Queensland that provide legal services to prisoners about matters arising for being held in custody.
The Queensland Corrective Services response was:
“QCS continues to work proactively and cooperatively with Queensland Police Service to ensure prisoners are transferred appropriately, safely and within the legislative time frame.
“All privileged mail (including legal mail) received by a prisoner is immediately delivered once it is established that it is from a person prescribed under the Corrective Services Regulation.
“If a search of privileged mail reveals a prohibited thing or something that may physically harm the person to whom the mail is addressed, the Commissioner or delegate may seize the harmful or prohibited thing.”
The Community Legal Centres Queensland said the centre director was not able to comment on these issues, while the Queensland Human Rights Commission said it did not comment on individual cases and pointed out prisoners’ rights under Queensland legislation.
Mr O’Rourke said he was advised that Queensland Corrective Services continued to work proactively and cooperatively with Queensland Police Service to ensure prisoners were transferred appropriately, safely and within the legislative time frame.
“I am further advised that all privileged mail (including legal mail) received by a prisoner is immediately delivered once it is established that it is from a person prescribed under the Corrective Services Regulation,” he said.
“I am advised that if a search of privileged mail reveals a prohibited thing or something that may physically harm the person to whom the mail is addressed, the Commissioner or delegate may seize the harmful or prohibited thing.”
There were no responses received from Ms Lauga or Ms Fentiman.