Don Dale ‘sex assaults’ a prank on the police
Child inmates at Darwin’s notorious Don Dale Youth Detention Centre have been “pranking” police by falsely claiming to have suffered sexual assaults at the hands of guards.
The fake reports come amid the highly charged atmosphere of the final weeks of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, in which the inquiry is expected to determine what adverse findings and recommendations to make.
Sources told The Australian there had been an increase in specious complaints since the commission began its work, attributing the rise to kids seeking to exploit the added scrutiny and protection of the commission’s work to get one-up on guards.
Northern Territory Police confirmed receipt of two recent calls from Don Dale detainees alleging sexual assault. “On both occasions, police attended and the calls were established as pranks,” a spokeswoman said.
Of 23 other complaints from youth detainees lodged since the commission was created last August, none has so far been substantiated. “None of these complaints were of a sexual nature,” the police spokeswoman said. “Of these, 21 were investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. One complaint was discontinued when the complainant declined to make a statement, and one remains under investigation.”
Last month, the already-overbudget commission received its third extension, this time to allow those in receipt of notices of adverse material adequate time to respond. New non-publication directions prevent disclosure of the contents of any notices or to whom they were sent. However, The Australian has learned of deep frustration about the poor quality of their drafting and the commission’s apparently scattershot approach.
Notices are said to have been issued about numerous instances in which adverse material was adduced in hearings, something anyone present could discern for themselves. What remains unclear is whether the commission intends to make findings of fact about those allegations.
Most “vulnerable” witnesses were not cross-examined, and the commission did not follow the same rules for admitting evidence that applied in court. It also remains unclear whether any party will see or have a chance to respond to a draft of the commission’s report before it is finalised, opening the possibility that it will be condemned as unfair after it is released.