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.

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