Abused juvenile detainees in class action against NT government

11 January 2017
Australia’s leading social justice law firm, Maurice Blackburn has commenced a social justice class action on behalf of young people who were abused while being held in the Northern Territory’s youth detention centres.

The class action alleges that juvenile detainees were subjected to assault, battery and/or false imprisonment beyond the lawful powers granted to prison guards.

The legal action is being brought on behalf of all those detainees who were abused while held in the Northern Territory’s youth detention centres operating between 1 August, 2006 and 23 December, 2016. This includes the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre (the old Don Dale), the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre.

The class representatives, Dylan Jenkings and Aaron Hyde allege the treatment they were subject to while being detained in youth detention centres gives rise to a civil claim for compensation.

Mr Jenkings claims that he was assaulted and battered by prison guards in a high security unit at Don Dale last year. He alleges he was tear-gassed, handcuffed, pushed to the ground and held by a number of staff. Mr Jenkings claims he was then punched in the back of the head, causing his face to hit the floor of the cell forcefully. He was dragged to another cell where he was punched, kicked and beaten with batons and shields. Mr Jenkings was then refused permission to leave this cell for the next 48 hours.

Mr Hyde says that in 2012 he was taken from his room in the old Don Dale, unnecessarily handcuffed and struck in the ribs several times by the guards. He claims he was also handcuffed to a fence at the detention centre with his arms above his head and left in that position for an hour.

After he was released from the fence, Mr Hyde says he was taken to an isolation unit at the centre called the Behavioural Management Unit. He was forced to surrender all of his clothing apart from his underpants and was left there for two to three weeks.

Maurice Blackburn Class Action Principal, Ben Slade says it’s possible there could be hundreds of current and former Northern Territory juvenile detainees who have had similar experiences and are eligible to claim compensation in the class action.

“The Four Corners expose last year and a number of previous formal reports to the Northern Territory government have shown that this type of abuse isn’t an odd, isolated event.

“The Territory’s juvenile justice system has been shown over and over again to not only have failed to rehabilitate those in its care, but have allowed many children to be abused by some of its own employees,” Mr Slade said.

“I urge anyone who was detained in a Northern Territory youth detention centre in the past ten years and who was subjected to periods of isolation or aggressive treatment by prison guards to register with Maurice Blackburn.”

“Maurice Blackburn has a long, proud and successful history seeking justice and redress on behalf of those who can least afford it. No one denies these kids may have broken the law, but they didn’t deserve to be broken by the law,” Mr Slade said.

“They have the same right as anyone else to seek compensation through the courts for the harm and deprivations inflicted upon them.”

“We are proud to run this social justice case in seeking access to justice for those who have been affected,” Mr Slade said.

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