PIAC has welcomed calls by a NSW Parliamentary Committee for greater transparency and accountability in relation to the way the NSW Police Force applies the Suspect Targeting Management Plan (STMP) to children and young people.
The STMP is a secret NSW Police policy that has been used by police to single out young people for special, and sometimes invasive attention. ‘Targets’ on the STMP, some as young as nine, have been repeatedly detained and searched while going about their everyday lives, and visited at home at all hours.
Young people are not formally notified when they are placed on the STMP, or for what reason. They have no opportunity to appeal the decision, nor given any information about what they need to do to be removed from it.
The report of the Legislative Assembly Committee on Law and Safety following its Inquiry into the adequacy of youth diversionary programs, has recommended that the NSW Police Force make the STMP policy and high-level operational documents publicly available and the police develop guidelines for its application to children.
‘We welcome the Committee’s call for greater transparency in relation to the STMP and recommendations to increase accountability around when the policy can be applied to children,’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor.
‘While these recommendations are a step in the right direction, they do not go far enough.’
PIAC and the Youth Justice Coalition released a report on the STMP in 2017 which found that the policy causes serious harm to young people and undermines the objectives of the NSW youth justice system.
The NSW Police Commissioner, Michael Fuller, has admitted more than 50% of people who are currently the subject of a Suspect Target Management Plan are Indigenous.
‘For Aboriginal people to make up more than 50% of people subject to the STMP regime should be ringing alarm bells. We need to know why and it is time for a full and independent review of the SMTP and its impact on young people to be undertaken,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.
‘There is no publicly available evidence that the STMP is effective in preventing crime for adults, let alone children and young people.
‘Being placed on an STMP can have a serious, detrimental effect on the lives of young people and their families. Young people have reported being stopped and searched in public, sometimes several times a week, and visited at home by police, late at night, for no specific reason. This seriously undermines trust and respect for police by young people and their families and runs counter to the efforts that are being made to divert young people from the criminal justice system.
‘That’s why we continue to call for the NSW Police to stop applying the STMP to children under 18, where it can do the most harm.’
STMP report co-author and lead researcher, Dr Vicki Sentas, Faculty of Law UNSW Sydney, said: ‘Our research found that the STMP can increase rather than decrease the risk of a child having contact with the criminal justice system in unnecessary circumstances. It’s not in the public interest for young people to be charged with minor offences where there is no threat to community safety.
‘Good alternatives to the STMP already exist with best practice focused on therapy and rehabilitation to address the causes of offending. The STMP may cause fear and serious disruption to the young person and their whole family, but this is not appropriate or effective crime prevention.’
‘Our research raises concerns around unfair, arbitrary and unlawful police searches against young people on the STMP. The STMP may be encouraging poor police practice in relation to young people and is a risk to good, investigative policing. Police have special obligations to protect children and this is why children should not be put on the STMP.’
PIAC has also welcomed the Committee’s call for an inquiry to consider raising the age of criminal responsibility (recommendation 5) and the recommendation that arrest and detention should be a last resort for children under 18 (recommendation 10).
Media contact: PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Gemma Pearce – 0478 739 280