No charges over NT justice commission

Former detainee Dylan Voller says he won’t stop fighting after hearing no guards would be charged.The Darwin prison guards who cloaked teenaged detainee Dylan Voller in a spit hood and strapped him to a restraint chair, forcibly stripped him naked or tear-gassed him won’t face criminal prosecution.
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A subsequent royal commission into the Northern Territory’s youth detention centres found the system was broken, but police announced on Thursday that all investigations related to matters arising from the inquiry have now been completed and no charges will be laid.

A heartbroken Mr Voller vowed to keep “fighting for what is right”.

“I’m disappointed and let down by the system,” the 20-year-old told reporters, flanked by a group of grandmothers at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra.

“I went through a year of listening to the royal commission, giving my side of the story, listening to other evidence, which made me (feel) down and played with my mental health, it made my anxiety worse, only to be told there’s not going to be any accountability.”

The $70 million spent on the inquiry had been a waste of money, he said.

He said the detention guards should “look in the mirror and be ashamed of themselves”.

“Hopefully they can apologise and I can forgive them and move on,” Mr Voller said.

Alice Springs grandmother Christine Kngwarraye Palmer, who gave evidence to the royal commission after her grandson was abused while in youth detention, said she felt really angry.

“We saw the physical abuse, (the footage) went all over the world, and everybody watching I’m sure would have shed a tear,” she told reporters.

“It’s a crime, they should be charged. If somebody did that to your son, what would you call it?”

Shocking footage from 2014 of the treatment of Ms Palmer’s grandson and others inside NT youth detention centres was dubbed ”s Abu Ghraib’ – a reference to the US military torture scandal in Iraq.

The royal commission found officers restrained children, using force including restraint chairs, and inappropriately used isolation cells.

It also revealed “severe, prison-like and unhygienic conditions” across a number of facilities in the Top End.

“The failures we have identified have cost children and families greatly, they have not made communities safer and they are shocking,” Commissioner Mick Gooda said when the report was released.

The Territory government has since announced it will spend $229 million to implement more than 200 recommendations.

Former NT Corrections Minister John Elferink said the fact no criminal charges had been laid meant Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had been misled in commissioning the investigation after the images were aired.

“We have… always acted when in government, with absolute probity, something Four Corners had explained to them at length, something they chose not to run with and as a consequence, they put out a story saying that we tortured children,” Mr Elferink told NT News.

“All of those things are indictable offences, none of that was found to be true.”

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