A key component of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew's youth crime solution has been thrown into disarray after the Supreme Court ruled jailing children in adult prisons is illegal.
But the state government is arguing there is nowhere else for them to go.
Supreme Court Justice Gregory Garde initially ruled on Wednesday that 20 children being held at Barwon Prison must be removed by 4pm on Thursday and transferred to another remand centre. However, after hours of deliberations, Justice Garde conceded that they would have to stay for now, as there were no "secure" beds available in any of the state's juvenile detention centres.
Justice Garde said the children's human rights had been breached, and they were illegally being held at the maximum security prison.
Supreme Court deemed young people in Barwon Prison as being unlawfully detained. Govt appear to have zero plan of what to do now #springst— Nina Springle (@ninaspringle) December 21, 2016
The Age reports the court had previously heard the boys being held at Barwon -- all of whom have yet to be sentenced and may yet be found not guilty -- had been held in isolation in their cells for up to 23 hours a day.
They had also been denied access to education and other programs available to them at other youth justice facilities, and had been denied full access to their families and their lawyers, the court heard.
The Victorian Government has indicated it will appeal the decision.
In early December, Andrews vowed to fight to keep teenagers in adult prison. A week before the declaration, Andrews reportedly backed out of a different legal battle and returned several Indigenous teenagers to youth justice centres.
Extraordinary scenes here at the Supreme Court. The govt arguing there is simply nowhere else for the Barwon kids to go #springst— Bianca Hall (@_Biancah) December 21, 2016
Court hears the kids may have to stay at Barwon (declared illegal) for months until alternatives found. #springst— Bianca Hall (@_Biancah) December 21, 2016
Following a series of riots at the Parkville youth justice centre in November, the Victorian government began transferring children from three youth justice centres to the maximum security Barwon Prison.
It's been reported that the riots caused $2 million worth of damage and more than 60 beds were destroyed.