• Had no idea bout the spithoods, says former Northern Territory corrections minister Gerry McCarthy (Facebook)Source: Facebook
The Former Minister for NT Corrections during the time much of the strip searching and inappropriate use of restraints or restraint tools took place.
17 Mar 2017 - 2:53 PM  UPDATED 17 Mar 2017 - 2:53 PM

Former Northern Territory corrections minister Gerry McCarthy has denied ever being told about youth inmates being strip searched, put in spithoods or shackled to restraint chairs.

Giving evidence at the juvenile justice royal commission, Mr McCarthy said he was only informed about staff using excessive force in three incidents - two involving former inmate Dylan Voller.

"I do not recall being briefed nor made aware of strip searching, the inappropriate use of restraints or restraint tools," he told the inquiry hearing in Alice Springs on Friday.

Don Dale youth detention centre worker Harold Morgan was suspended after Voller complained to police about "rough treatment" while being placed in his cell in 2010.

Another Alice Springs detention centre guard was stood down in 2011 after he slapped the boy in the face following a dispute over an unauthorised phone call.

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At the time, Voller had racked up 95 incidents of non-compliance, assaulting and threatening others recorded against him since entering detention, an incident report revealed.

It was under Mr McCarthy's watch during the previous Labor government's tenure that much of the alleged mistreatment by guards took place.

Between 2009 and 2012 children were allegedly sexually harassed, physically assaulted, spithooded and subjected to solitary confinement.

Mr McCarthy's government ignored a 2010 recommendation from its own expert panel to build a new 75-bed facility to address overcrowding and security risks.

The completion of Darwin's $1.8 billion adult prison was prioritised instead.

Upgrades to the Don Dale and Alice Springs youth facilities were deferred, and all plans for new infrastructure faded when Labor lost power to the Country Liberal Party in 2012, he said.

The current Gunner Labor government housing minister flagged concerns with school programs and delayed medical treatment for inmates, including one who needed surgery for appendicitis.

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He also noted many guards had low skill sets, low morale, and a lack of motivation due to dismal training, pay and conditions.

Mr McCarthy said he had pushed to lift these to address high staff turnover and recruitment challenges.

This week, the current Labor government passed laws on urgency allowing police to put electronic monitoring bracelets on young offenders while out on bail.

Existing youth prison guards and 25 new recruits - including 12 indigenous Australians and 11 women - have also begun six weeks of rehabilitation-focused training designed to curb future reoffending.