AFP Commissioner personally apologises to Hakeem al-Araibi over his detention in Thailand
The Australian Federal Police Commissioner tells a Senate hearing he has apologised to refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi over his detention in a Thai prison for months. Commissioner Reece Kershaw, who assumed the AFP's top job earlier this month, told Senate Estimates bureaucratic mistakes led to the permanent Australian resident being locked up.Mr al-Araibi was arrested by Thai authorities when he arrived in Bangkok for his honeymoon in November 2018, because Bahrain had issued an Interpol red notice against him for vandalism charges.Mr al-Araibi has long maintained Bahrain's allegations were politically motivated.
Andrew Johnson describes them as "ordinary kids".
But there is one key difference — they're locked up.
The former aid worker has spent the past four years interviewing 260 children and young people in NSW's juvenile detention centres.
He is set to release a major report today, urging the NSW Government to invest more in centres so children can spend more time out of cells and engaged in activities.
"They're our nieces, our nephews, our next-door neighbours," he says.
"What's different is that they have gone through extraordinary circumstances."
Rioting migrants demanding freedom torch cars in Malta
Hundreds of people have been held in over-crowded detention centres and former army barracks.The violence broke out Sunday night at a former British army barrack in Hal Far, close to Malta's airport.
As the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People, Mr Johnson occupies an independent role providing advice to Parliament.
On his tours of the centres, he heard many complaints of too much time spent on lockdown, with children kept in what he calls "quite small rooms".
"I think it would shock some members of society to see actually what their rooms look like," he says.
The children — many of whom have mental health problems and histories of abuse — commonly told him they did not want to be left alone with their thoughts for too long.
Too often they are missing out on psychological help or activities in the evening, on weekends and during school holidays, the report finds.
"There's too many lockdowns," one young person said.
"Once in the morning after breakfast, then before lunch, and after lunch, two hours or something, then before dinner, then after dinner."
Tamil family who are being watched around the clock on Christmas Island are costing Australian taxpayers $20,000 A DAY as the total bill for deporting them tops $30MILLION
During a Senate estimates hearing on Monday night, it was revealed the government has spent about $30million - almost $20,000 a day - to house the family-of-four after the island re-opened in April. The Tamil family are the only detainees on the island, which employs more than 100 people as staff.'So we spent in the region of $30million to detain four people for a couple of months, is that right?' Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim said.Deputy Australian Border Force Commissioner Kaylene Zakharoff replied 'yep'.
Mr Johnson said Juvenile Justice was taking steps to reduce isolation but needed to invest more in staff and programs to make that happen.
His recommendations include raising the age of criminal responsibility from age 10 to 14, which would bring NSW into line with many other countries around the world.
He has also called for more flexible bail conditions so children with unstable housing would not be detained unnecessarily for breaches.
Long school suspension impact
One of the biggest issues young people in custody raised was interruptions in their schooling.
Last year, 12,355 students in NSW received long suspensions of up to 20 days.
More than a quarter of them were Indigenous.
"I got suspended like all the time, the longest was 65 days," one young person said.
Another said: "When you're suspended from school you've got nothing else to do [but] walk the streets.
"Mum and that wasn't there for us … Kicking us out of school is basically telling us to go do what we want."
Russian woman who infiltrated US politics out of prison
A tantalizing chapter in Russia's efforts to collect intelligence on American politics came to a close on Friday as a woman who worked as a covert agent was released from prison to be returned to her home country. Maria Butina, a gun rights activist who sought to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups and promote Russia's agenda around the time that Donald Trump rose to power, left a low-security facility in Tallahassee, Florida and boarded a plane home to Moscow. She had been in custody since her arrest in July 2018.
Research from the US and Australia points to a "school-to-prison pipeline" where suspension leads to marginalised young people who are more likely to commit crimes.
Aboriginal child welfare body AbSec chief executive Tim Ireland said the rate of long school suspensions "should be alarming" the NSW Government.
He said it should focus on "giving Aboriginal young people something to do within the community that's positive and keeps them connected."
The Australian Institute of Criminology called for an overhaul of the current approach back in 2017.
That was echoed last September when a NSW parliamentary inquiry recommended the abolition of unsupervised school suspensions.
But more than a year later, the NSW Education Department is still reviewing its policies.
On Tuesday, Community Services Minister Gareth Ward announced a raft of new measures in response toincluding security upgrades, new detainee classifications and high-risk units.
"Our Government's success in diverting young people away from the system has resulted in a 40 per cent decrease in detainees over the last decade," Mr Ward said.
Men caught in the act allegedly poaching wild goats in NSW
A group of men have been caught in the act allegedly hunting and poaching dozens of wild goats in rural NSW overnight. Officers were called to a property near Cobar in the Central West at 5am.They allegedly discovered 38 rangeland goats on a truck.The goats were released and the truck was seized.Two men, one aged 27 and one aged 28, will be served with future court attendance notices for an array of offences, police said.Central North Police District Commander, Superintendent Andrew Hurst, said rural crime and the offenders causing harm to the rural community continue to be of focus.
Criminal justice system 'quicksand'
Mr Johnson has praised the government's diversionary work but Indigenous incarceration remains drastically high.
Forty-eight per cent of detainees are Indigenous, a parliamentary estimates hearing was told in September, even though Indigenous people make up 3.5 per cent of the NSW population.
Indigenous interviewees told Mr Johnson that they responded better to programs in school and in custody led by members of their own community.
"We need to stop them before they get caught up in the quicksand of the criminal justice system," said Karly Warner, chief executive of the Aboriginal Legal Service, NSW/ACT.
Ms Warner has backed calls in Mr Johnson's report to expand the specialist Youth Koori Court and invest more in Aboriginal-controlled programs for children.
"When you are ripping children away from their families and communities and placing them in danger, in Juvenile Justice settings or prisons, you are removing them from their key cultural protective factor."
At the end of his interviews with children and young people in Juvenile Justice, Mr Johnson says "what's most striking is that they're wanting to get their life back on track."
"They're saying, 'you know what, I want as much help as I can get', and all we need to do is to respond to that."
As one young person told him: "We've got to learn from our mistakes. I'd just like us to have more opportunities."
Possum hitchhikes 100 kilometres from city home in spare tyre on the back of a ute .
A juvenile possum that hitched a lift on a 100-kilometre road trip in the tyre of a ute will remain in its new home, young enough now to grow up without mum and dad.The possum constructed its leafy drey, or nest, in the spare tyre of a ute parked at the Royal on the Park Hotel, across the road from the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.