High Court Don Dale ruling: timely reminder that police & prison officers need to follow the law

3rd Jun 2020

Today’s High Court decision, which found that the tear-gassing of four teenagers in Darwin's Don Dale Youth Detention Centre was unlawful, holds the prison system to account for the inhumane treatment of the teenagers in their care.

“This is a timely reminder that law enforcement officers need to follow the rules,” said Mr Greg Barns SC, national criminal justice spokesperson, Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“The law does not permit police or prison officers to use illegal weapons or excessive force, and as a community we won’t tolerate this behaviour.

“This High Court decision is important as it allows the teenagers involved to seek redress for the violence they experienced and it holds the prison officers to account for their actions.”

Evidence shows that youth detention and criminal justice practices in the Northern Territory disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.

“In the Northern Territory, over 90 per cent of young people in detention are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and it is hard to have real hope for their rehabilitation when they are being exposed to the justice system at such a young age,” said Mr Barns SC.

“Detention of young people should only ever occur where absolutely necessary because there is no other option to ensure their safety and the safety of others in the community. The community must also have trust in the government to ensure that children are protected from harm while in their care.

The ALA is a national association of lawyers, academics and other professionals dedicated to protecting and promoting justice, freedom and the rights of the individual.

Tags: Compensation Detention Youth Justice Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people