• Former NT Chief Minister Adam Giles. (Facebook)Source: Facebook
I didn't know, says Adam Giles.
28 Apr 2017 - 3:27 PM  UPDATED 18 Dec 2018 - 10:56 AM

The Northern Territory chief minister in charge when boys were tear gassed in youth detention says he was unaware of the abuses until footage was aired on national television.

Adam Giles was Country Liberal Party leader when 2014 footage of teen inmates being gassed, spithooded and shackled was aired on the ABC's Four Corners program in July.

He's said the scandal, which sparked the juvenile justice royal commission, cost him his once safe seat in a landslide election defeat a month later.

It follows evidence from the former Northern Territory corrections ministerĀ Gerry McCarthy who denied ever being toldĀ about youth inmates being strip searched, put in spithoods or shackled to restraint chairs.

Mr Giles told the inquiry he was horrified to discover the mistreatment and blamed a "culture of cover up" that prevented information flowing to the top of government.

"As a dad and an Aboriginal man, watching those Aboriginal kids getting thrown down like that, I had a lump in my throat, chills up my spine," he said on Friday.

"I was appalled."

The former leader, who had called on Malcolm Turnbull to establish a royal commission within hours of the program going to air, gave no statement or any documents to the inquiry.

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As such, all evidence was based on his memory while in the stand and Mr Giles struggled to remember many details.

He claimed he "couldn't recall" more than 40 times when pressed over two hours on a variety of youth detention issues, including funding requests to address overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure and ill trained, under resourced guards.

During his tenure the NT government was handed two Children's Commissioner reports along with independent and internal reviews detailing systemic problems inside Territory youth prisons.

Senior counsel assisting the inquiry Peter Morrissey SC questioned how Mr Giles could have no knowledge of an acute crisis in which children were being "treated like animals".

"Never was that brought to my attention," Mr Giles replied.

"How can that be that you as chief minister were not aware of what appears to be a major shortfall in an important portfolio within your government," Mr Morrissey SC asked.

Mr Giles said he had multiple subordinates in the chain of command taking responsibility of those matters.

"Not everything makes its way up to you," he said.

Mr Giles said he spoke most days with sacked corrections minister John Elferink, but couldn't recall Mr Elferink showing him serious security and operational failures at Don Dale Detention Centre two months before the 2014 gassing incident.

Mr Giles also denied he'd ordered a 20 per cent cut to the corrections 2014/15 budget, which former commissioner Ken Middlebrook said brought the department to its knees.

He wasn't even aware that the Alice Springs Aranda House was a youth detention facility.

Mr Giles couldn't point to any evidence suggesting a harsh sentencing agenda reduced recidivism, but denied his party had a deliberate strategy to push a 'tough on crime' message.

That's despite a 2016 Facebook rant in which he proposed to dump the presumption of bail for "rogue youth".