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Victorian lawyers take issue with Mikakos

AAP logoAAP 5/01/2017

Lawyers in Victoria have condemned an attack by Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos on their integrity following legal challenges against the detention of juveniles in an adult prison.

Ms Mikakos this week accused lawyers for 11 youths being held at Barwon Prison of putting their own concerns ahead of their clients' interests, in a Twitter spat with Ruth Barson from the Human Rights Law Centre.

The Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar on Thursday said the minister's comments were "unfounded and inappropriate".

Ms Mikakos had said the lawyers were ignoring the "obvious risks" of transferring the teens to facilities where they must share cells, and could rape and assault each other.

The minister told Ms Barson "legal ethics require you to put your clients' interests before your world view".

Victorian Bar president Jennifer Batrouney QC has defended the lawyers, saying they were acting for their clients in accordance with the law.

"These lawyers represented some of the most vulnerable members of our community - children who are incarcerated," she said in a statement.

The youths remain in the prison's Grevillea unit in single cells despite two courts ordering they be moved to more suitable facilities.

The youths were sent to Barwon Prison after riots damaged the Malmsbury and Parkville youth detention centres in November.

Lawyers challenged the transfer in the Supreme Court, which found the government had acted unlawfully.

The government appealed and lost, with the Court of Appeal ordering them to move the teens, but the government instead rebranded the Grevillea unit as a youth facility.

One of the teens is due to apply for bail in the Supreme Court on Friday.

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