Youths driven 1000km in police cage

Issue 

Jon Lamb, Darwin

Civil rights and legal advocates have been angered by the cruel treatment of four Aboriginal teenagers, who were driven 1000 kilometres in the rear steel cage of a police wagon at high speed without breaks.

The four were detained by police on the weekend of February 12-13 in Borroloola, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and taken to the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre in Darwin. Police claim that an aircraft was not available.

The youths where driven at speeds of 100 km/h, without seatbelts and without stopping, along one of the most dangerous highways in the Northern Territory. One of those detained, Wesley McDinny, told ABC News that they where all scared for their lives and only given dirty blankets.

Lawyers from the North Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service have lodged complaints with the territory ombudsman and the police commissioner over the treatment of the youths. NAALAS president Natalie Hunter told ABC News on February 15 that the removal of young people from their communities and travelling large distances was unnecessary and harmful. "We have bush courts that happen out in the community and not only that, we also have video link-up and telephone link-up with the Magistrates Court. So to bring clients in, thousands of miles in, to deal with it and just no way of getting home, no transportation, we're just creating itinerants here, in the Darwin community."

Police claim they followed all the correct procedures. When asked by the ABC's The World Today program whether seatbelts should be fitted in the cages of police wagons a police spokesperson replied, "You've got to be kidding".

This incident is not an isolated one. Prisoners in NT jails are regularly carted long distances by road in the back of police wagons.

From Green Left Weekly, February 23, 2005.
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