‘Cemented in their cells’: a human rights analysis of Blessington, Elliott and the life imprisonment of children in New South Wales

Wendy O’Brien, Kate Fitz-Gibbon

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4 Citations (Scopus)


In 2010, two Australians, convicted in childhood of rape and murder, lodged a
joint submission with the United Nations Human Rights Committee, claiming
that successive changes to sentencing legislation in New South Wales breached
their human rights by denying them any meaningful prospect of release. In this
article, we examine the political, legislative and procedural moves that have
resulted in Australian children being sentenced to life without parole or release.
We argue that successive legislative changes in various Australian jurisdictions
have resulted in a framework for sentencing decisions that is considerably out
of step with international legal standards for criminal justice. These increasingly
punitive legislative changes exacerbate Australia’s already declining record of
cooperation with UN processes, and reveal Australia’s reluctance to respect the
legitimacy and authority of international law. Against this troubling context, the
views of the Human Rights Committee serve as a much-needed reminder about
the importance of a principled approach to child sentencing that forecloses
neither the goal of rehabilitation nor the prospect of release and reintegration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-133
Number of pages23
JournalAustralian Journal of Human Rights
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Bronson Blessington
  • children’s rights
  • Janine Balding
  • life without parole
  • Matthew Elliott
  • sentencing

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