• Former teen inmate Dylan Voller and supporters rally outside the Northern Territory juvenile justice royal commission in Alice Springs on Tuesday. (AAP)Source: AAP
Former inmates reveal harrowing claims before NT Royal Commission.
By
Ryan Liddle

Source:
NITV News
14 Mar 2017 - 11:03 AM  UPDATED 14 Mar 2017 - 5:24 PM

A Northern Territory prison guard sexually harassed girls and boys in detention as well as staff, the youth justice royal commission has heard.

Former acting general manager of NT Youth Detention John Fattore told the inquiry that in 2008, complaints were made about a male guard's flirtatious behaviour with a female detainee, saying she was "legal" or old enough to legally consent to sex.

The officer also made numerous inappropriate remarks about the size of one boy's genitalia, remarking that he was "well hung".

The Royal Commission was read a statement on behalf of one youth detainee, only referred to as ‘BQ’. 

Lawyer Giles Obrien-Hartcher read the statement to Trevor Hansen, a former Shift Supervisor at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. 

“Sometimes the guards would give us wedgies and punch us, it was a joke to them, they thought it was fun,” the detainee’s statement read.

“The Guard Yogi gave me a wedgie in the dining room two times. Other guards would say ‘Do the wedgie and laugh’”.

Obrien-Hartcher asked the guard: “Do you ever think that that manoeuvre was a matter for amusement?”

“No,” replied Mr Hansen.

Mr Hansen was then questioned by Commissioner Margaret White, AO, about a particular technique used by guards to escort detainees.

The Commissioner also asked about how guards were trained in relation to handling insults and offensive language directed at them. Commissioner Margaret White asked: “Wouldn’t part of your training mean that you are likely to be exposed to this unpleasantness so that you would not take it personally?”

“No,” replied Mr Hansen.

“You weren’t trained to manage insults?” asked Commissioner White.

“No. I just never took it personally,” he responded.

“The Detainees were in there because most of them were trouble. You knew that they were going to have a go at you because they had to have a go at something and you were the closest person, whether you were at fault or you were the one that put them in there or whatever.

“If you were in front of their face they were going to abuse you and a lot of the times we got spat at, things thrown at us. Talking about the one person escort, you were always to the side holding their shirt to make sure they couldn’t swing at you, because often a lot of the times they’d want to punch you. That was basically day to day life.”

Guard entered female inmates cells

Mr Fattore said in 2009 one guard allegedly had to be cautioned about entering female detainees cells alone and commenting on their physical attributes.

"(A) female staff member was then actually harassed in a matter that involved contact," he said in Alice Springs on Tuesday.

Eighteen complaints made against the youth justice officer between 2002 and 2006, the inquiry heard.

Senior management transferred the guard to other duties away from children, including the role of canteen officer.

But he was further disciplined in 2008 for posting inappropriate comments about former detainees on an internet blog site.

The "keen power lifter" was associated with a former prisoner convicted of drug offences linked to the body building lifestyle, counsel assisting the commission Peter Callaghan SC said.

During one incident at Don Dale Detention Centre, the guard threw a chair across a yard and swore at the young inmates, screaming "f*** up you little dickheads."

After conducting several interviews with detainees during an investigation, Mr Fattore said most of the kids were scared of the guard and described him as a "loose cannon".

"But then come 2009, he is back in the centre as a loose cannon.... How on earth could that have happened?" Mr Callaghan asked.

"I believe a determination must have been made by management somewhere that that should occur," Mr Fattore said.

He was referring to former Corrections Commissioner Ken Middlebrook, who resigned after approving the tear gassing of teenagers in solitary confinement that sparked the inquiry.

'He grabbed me by the throat and choked me up against the wall,' NT royal commission hears
A young offender has told the NT juvenile justice royal commission in Alice Springs today he was choked, intimidated and assaulted by youth prison guards who regularly took their anger out on kids.

Hearings told of a alleged culture of bullying, mistreatment and staffing issues

Allegations of rampant mistreatment by officers, a culture of bullying, woeful training and chronic short-staffing were revealed during the Alice Springs hearing on Monday.

Three current or former detainees gave evidence, painting a disturbing picture of life behind bars with children subjected to prolonged isolation and mistreatment.

A male prison guard who also took the stand said he forcibly restrained a 15-year-old girl while she was stripped to her underwear and called it standard "procedure".

Former inmate Jamal Turner said there were no interpreters provided for children from indigenous communities who had difficulty speaking English, and some white guards called them "dumb black kids".

"Most of us that come out of detention come out more angry and acting tough than when we went in," said the 20-year-old, who is in custody.

A current Don Dale inmate identified as BC said prison guards treated the young people "like dogs" and there was a lack of adequate rehabilitation, education, and post-release planning.

A former detainee identified as BF said when he broke his collarbone from a sports injury guards ignored his complaints, and it was three days before he was taken to hospital.

Teen criminal Dylan Voller, whose tear gassing and spithooding while in jail triggered the probe, protested outside the court in solidarity.

More than 60 witnesses are expected to testify in the next three weeks, with four more vulnerable witnesses scheduled to give evidence this week ahead of more hearings in Darwin.

 A former guard who notoriously restrained Voller while he was stripped naked, and the leaders who oversaw "a system of disarray and despair", will also face the inquiry, counsel assisting the commission Tony McAvoy SC said.

Former Labor government corrections minister and current Gunner government housing minister Gerry McCarthy is slated to take the stand on Friday.

The previous CLP government's corrections minister John Elferink, who was sacked, will also give evidence.

Voller leads protest outside NT royal commission into juvenile justice
The former NT teen inmate whose treatment behind bars sparked a royal commission says he wants to support other young offenders telling their story.

With AAP