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Don Dale teen escapees wrongly put in low security accommodation, review finds

21 April 2017 9:14 AM
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A damning report into security at Darwin's Don Dale Youth Detention Centre reveals two detainees who escaped earlier this month were incorrectly housed in low-security accommodation.

The report, released today by the Northern Territory Government, also said the 17-year-old boys escaped by flattening razor wire with a table leg and climbing over the fence at a point where a shirt was hanging off it from a previous escape two weeks earlier.

"Leaving the shirt hanging from the razor wire for a number of weeks was like a beacon for those detainees walking past," one staff member told the review.

"In fact, it was likely to have been the chosen location by the escapees owing to the fact that the fence had previously been scaled at that point."

The review said a contractor had been booked to remove the shirt and repair the fence on April 11, three weeks after it was left there during the first escape.

The detainees led police on a dangerous three-day pursuit down the Stuart Highway in which they allegedly stole and crashed multiple cars and car-jacked a person.

The review also said the security classification procedure for detainees in Don Dale is often not understood or followed by staff.

At the time of the escape, the prisoners were classified as a medium-security risk, yet both were housed in a low-security wing, contrary to procedure and despite one having a history of escape.

The Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield said a new superintendent had been appointed to the facility and all recommendations from the report would be actioned.

"We need to make sure that we're tightening up those issues, the classification system in particular."

Ms Wakefield said the detainees should not have been housed in the low-security area.

"I think this report gives us a way forward in making sure that type of decision making in our classification is stronger," she said.

The report recommended staff familiarise themselves with, and adhere to, the centre's security classification policies. It also recommended an immediate audit of Don Dale's perimeter security.

At the time of the escape it said eight perimeter security cameras were broken and grass had been allowed to grow head high, which provided cover for the breakout.

The report acknowledged there had been improvements made to the Don Dale centre since 2014, yet the Government "faced a balancing act" of investing in a facility that is likely to be de-commissioned following the outcomes of the royal commission.


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