Northern Territory prison guards allegedly sexually harassed and physically assaulted girls and boys in detention yet kept their jobs, the youth justice royal commission has heard.
A former acting general manager of NT Youth Detention told the inquiry that in 2008, complaints were made about a male guard who flirted with a female detainee, saying she was “legal” or old enough to consent to sex.
John Fattore said the Alice Springs officer also made numerous inappropriate remarks about the size of one boy’s genitalia, remarking that he was “well hung”.
Mr Fattore said in 2009 the guard was cautioned about entering female detainees’ cells alone and commenting on their physical attributes.
But an internal investigation only began after he was alleged to have sexually harassed a female staff member.
A female NT youth prison officer complained in 2012 that another guard discussed sex toys with young offenders and once told a detainee “you just want to touch my dick. You’re gay.”
During this time, an inmate was doing a task when the youth justice officer said “great, now do it with no pants.”
In an email, the guard said her colleague regularly teamed up with former inmate Dylan Voller to make lewd comments towards her, and the guard undermined her authority when trying to discipline the boy.
The man was only given a formal caution after apologising, claiming he wasn’t the only one talking inappropriately in front of detainees.
One Don Dale Detention Centre guard had 18 complaints made against him between 2002 and 2006, the inquiry heard.
He was also disciplined in 2008 for posting inappropriate comments about former detainees online.
Senior management transferred the guard to canteen duties away from children.
“But then come 2009, he is back in the centre as a loose cannon … How on earth could that have happened?” counsel assisting the commission Peter Callaghan SC asked.
“I believe a determination must have been made by management somewhere that that should occur,” Mr Fattore said on Tuesday.
He was referring to former Corrections Commissioner Ken Middlebrook, who resigned after approving the tear gassing of teenagers in solitary confinement that sparked the inquiry.
Former Don Dale shift supervisor Trevor Hansen also took the stand, denying he’d threatened one girl identified as AN by saying “take your f***ing clothes off or I’ll cut them off.”
“No, I don’t remember saying that … it’s possible I could have, yes. There are times when I’ve sworn,” Mr Hansen said.
Mr Hansen also rejected AN’s allegations that he picked her up by her shorts and bra strap in a “wedgie”.
Co-commissioner Margaret White questioned why Mr Hansen continued to use the technique he called a “one person escort” despite it being discontinued in training.
Also on Tuesday, Ms White said some young people wishing to share their story have been intimidated, both in and out of custody.
“It is an offence to intimidate, threaten, or otherwise prevent a person from giving evidence,” she said, adding the penalty for these crimes was up to five years prison.