Don Dale Detainees Set to Sue Government

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Children in detention

Two former detainees at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre will be bringing a civil action against the Northern Territory Government.

Twenty-year old Aaron Hyde and eighteen-year old Dylan Jenkings will be commencing proceedings for several alleged abuses, including fresh allegations of a tear gassing incident in April 2016.

Abuse exposed

In September 2015, our blog reported on the horrific abuses at Don Dale Detention Centre.

Ten months later in July 2016, the Four Corners programme aired a report entitled ‘Australia’s Shame’ which publicised the mistreatment on mainstream media. The programme released film of the assault, isolation and physical restraint of four boys detained at the centre.

In response to mainstream media attention, the Commonwealth Government announced the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, which is expected to release its final report on 1 August 2017.

Alleged abuse

Aaron Hyde first entered youth detention for theft at the age of fifteen. His statement of claim alleges that in 2012, he was beaten by Don Dale staff and left chained to a fence with his arms above his hands for up to an hour, causing him to urinate in his clothes. He says he was stripped to his underwear and placed in isolation at the centre’s notorious ‘behavioural management unit’ for up to three weeks.

He claims that on the first night of isolation, he was left naked without a mattress or bedding. He says he complained to a female staff member that he was cold, and was met with a response that he should masturbate to keep warm. With no running water in the cell, Hyde claims that he drank water from the toilet, and was only allowed out of the cell for fifteen minutes a day.

Dylan Jenkings claims he was punched in the back of the head, kicked and beaten by guards with batons and shields last year. He says Don Dale guards entered his cell, sprayed him and another child with tear gas and handcuffed both of them. He says staff members then dragged him into a cells which did not have CCTV cameras, where he was assaulted and left in isolation for two days.

The pair’s lawyers say the treatment amounts to assault, battery, and/or false imprisonment. They anticipate the initial proceedings could take about two years and are calling for other victims to come forward.

“Our clients are concerned not only of their own treatment, but the treatment of other young people in youth detention centres,” their lawyer said. “Things have to change.”

Government Response

The NT Government is seeking legal advice, while Corrections has denied using tear gas at Don Dale in April of last year. “The alleged incidents, including matters being examined by the royal commission, occurred prior to the Gunner government taking office,” Acting NT Chief Minister Nicole Manison said.

Opposition leader Gary Higgins denies being aware of the allegations when his Country Liberals Party was in power last April. Higgins has conceded that mistreated kids deserve compensation.

Incarceration versus diversion

The research clearly demonstrates that children are more likely to reoffend if they are incarcerated as opposed to being placed on preventative and diversionary programs which seek to address the underlying causes of their anti-social behaviour.

The figures suggest that 48% of juvenile males and 61% of females are re-incarcerated within 18 months of their release from detention, and a whopping 80% will experience some form of correctional supervision within 7 years of their release.

Aaron Hyde’s mother says her son became noticeably more anti-social upon release from detention. “I know he was in there because he was doing the wrong thing, and I have no issues with that, but that treatment is not conducive to rehabilitation,” she said.

Between August 2006 and the end of 2016, more than 1000 children were placed into youth detention in the Northern Territory, with almost 70 per cent claiming to have been subjected to mistreatment.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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