Federal Court will hear NT youth detention class action

30 October 2017
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have welcomed the decision of the Federal Court to allow young people who were abused while detained in the Northern Territory’s youth detention centres to proceed with a class action in the Federal Court.

A Federal Court judgement has been handed down in the case following an application made earlier this year by the Northern Territory Government to have the matter struck out or declassed, and instead heard as individual cases in the Northern Territory Supreme Court.

Maurice Blackburn Class Action Principal Ben Slade said the judgement was an important victory for young people seeking access to justice in the Northern Territory.

“Ensuring this matter can proceed as a class action, as we have sought to do from the outset, is critical because it means all young people who were abused while under the care of the Northern Territory Government in detention centres can pursue their legal rights collectively rather than having to pursue individual actions against the Northern Territory,” Mr Slade said.

“There are many current and former detainees who deserve to be compensated for the wrongs they have suffered as a result of poor and abusive practices undertaken within the Northern Territory’s youth justice system.

“We have always maintained that for many young people a class action is the only means of ensuring these young people can get access to the justice. We are pleased that the Court has now also confirmed that we can do this,” he said.

Mr Slade said the class action continued to play an important role in seeking much-needed reform for the Northern Territory’s youth detention system, along with the ongoing efforts of the Royal Commission.

“It is clear the current system has not worked and a better way forward is needed,” Mr Slade said.

“As I’ve said previously, these kids may have broken the law, but they didn’t deserve to be broken by the law.

“It is our hope that this class action will help to shine a light on the many structural and systemic issues that led to children suffering abuse in the government’s care, and we look forward to being able to progress this matter now that technical legal issues have been resolved,” he said.

The Federal Court also made orders that allowed young people who have cases underway in the Supreme Court relating to specific incidents to take part in the class action for redress for other abuse they suffered in youth detention.

The parties will be back before the Federal Court for a case management hearing on 18 December 2017.