• Dylan Voller who was tear-gassed, spit hooded and shackled to a restraint chair says he was regularly "punished". (AAP Image/Neda Vanovac )Source: AAP Image/Neda Vanovac
NT youth detention guard defends spithoods.
Source:
AAP
15 Mar 2017 - 5:29 PM  UPDATED 15 Mar 2017 - 5:29 PM

A Northern Territory youth prison guard accused of assaulting former teenage inmate Dylan Voller has defended the use of spithoods on children.

 Derek Tasker, an Alice Springs detention centre guard, told the Juvenile Justice Royal Commission that spithoods were only ever used on two detainees at the facility because they were "constantly spitting on us".

 "Some form of protection was required. It was horrible being spat on," he said in Alice Springs on Wednesday.

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"While I understand that it was not desirable for the detainee, communication was kept going at all times including telling them not to spit."

 Mr Tasker said spithoods were banned in 2016, the same year that images of Voller being spithooded and shackled to a restraint chair shocked the nation and triggered the inquiry.

 Mr Tasker was charged and then acquitted of assaulting Voller over an incident in 2010. Footage of the youth justice officer holding the then 13-year-old down by the neck as he was stripped naked in his cell was aired on national television last July.

 Mr Tasker said use of force is meant to be a last resort, but such procedures "were not suitable for detainees with significant behavioural issues, for example Dylan Voller". "It is not good for the detainee to be ground stabilised, it adds to more trauma to everyone," he said.

 "We need to come up with a better plan."

 The inquiry heard that prison management had to send senior guards orders to engage with children in school classes rather than just "sit back".

 "I have always had concerns that the secured facilities for education and recreation were not large enough and were not of adequate standard," Mr Tasker said.

He also flagged concern with a lack of drinking water and toilet access in detainee's cells.

While testifying in December, Voller said he was forced to defecate in a pillowcase after an Alice Springs officer refused to take him to the toilet overnight, while other detainees claimed they urinated out of the window of the cells.

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On Tuesday, Mr Tasker denied allegations from former youth detainee Jamal Turner that he assaulted the boy and that staff denied inmates food.

Mr Tasker, who's worked in NT youth detention for 20 years and is the current Alice Springs training officer, said a lack of female staff at the facility was also a major issue.

 "Even as I speak before the commission today we only have the one female officer," he said.

 This shortfall means often a male guard must accompany a woman to strip search girl inmates.

Mr Tasker said there'd been more than 20 escapes from the facility recently, and last week one of three escapees had to be hospitalised after police set dogs on them.

The hearing continues.