26 April 2024

Detainee hospitalised after alleged sexual assault in jail, government accepts review into incident

| Albert McKnight

A detainee alleged he was sexually assaulted at the Alexander Maconochie Centre in early 2023. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to an alleged sexual assault.

The ACT Government has agreed to implement several recommendations after a detainee alleged he was sexually assaulted at Canberra’s prison.

In early 2023, an Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) detainee went to an ACT Corrective Services (ACTCS) officer as he was worried he may have been sexually assaulted while he was asleep in a protection cottage, the ACT Inspector of Correctional Services (ICS) Rebecca Minty said.

The detainee claimed he had raised the issue with Justice Health Services (JHS) a day earlier, but his concerns had been dismissed, although JHS gave a different account of that meeting.

Corrections officers referred him to hospital for a forensic medical examination and testing.

While ICS did not comment on the veracity of the allegations, it examined how ACTCS and JHS responded to the incident.

“Although OICS has been made aware of allegations of sexual assault in the AMC in the past, this is the first time an alleged sexual assault resulting in admission to hospital has been reported to OICS as a critical incident since OICS was established in 2018,” Ms Minty wrote in a report from November 2023.

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The ICS’s review found corrections officers had responded appropriately to the allegations but did not handle potential evidence in accordance with the relevant policy and procedure.

On Friday (26 April), Ms Minty welcomed the government’s response to her review of the incident, as it had agreed or agreed in principle to all five of her recommendations, which are targeted at better prevention, data capture, and response to allegations of sexual coercion and violence in prison.

The review recommended public reporting on any strategy developed and the installation of enhanced security systems, such as CCTV cameras, in communal areas of the men’s cottages.

woman sitting on a desk in an office

ACT Inspector of Correctional Services Rebecca Minty has welcomed the government’s response to her recent recommendations. Photo: Liv Cameron.

“[The government] agrees that gaining a better understanding of the prevalence and incidence of alleged sexual assaults is key to informing both prevention and response strategies,” Ms Minty said.

“The response indicates that ACT Corrective Services have already commenced progress on all agreed recommendations in the report, and Justice Health Services has already completed a review of their approach to responding to sexual assault allegations, resulting in updates to their Operational Guide and incorporating responding to sexual assault allegations in their mandatory training program.”

The Minister for Corrections and Justice Health, Emma Davidson, said the alleged incident was “traumatic” for the person involved.

“It was reassuring to hear the inspector note that staff acted appropriately and promptly to respect the individual, understand their needs and reduce further harm to them following the incident,” she said.

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Ms Davidson said Corrective Services and JHS had already addressed some of the issues identified by the ICS. Also, JHS had updated its operational procedures and training in response to sexual assault allegations in custodial settings, while Corrective Services was reviewing how it recorded sexual assaults.

“There is still more to do, and we are committed to improving the safety and support for people in the prison,” Ms Davidson said.

An ACT Policing spokesperson said police investigated the matter; however, charges were not laid.

The government’s response to the recommendations can be viewed by clicking here.

In a 2022 review, the ICS found there was a lack of a guiding framework to prevent and respond to sexual coercion and violence in the AMC, but the government had since accepted that review’s recommendation that Corrective Services consult with key stakeholders to develop a strategy to prevent, track and respond to such incidents.

Ms Minty started her five-year term as the ACT’s second Inspector of Correctional Services in 2023.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 02 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 02 6280 0900, and Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call Triple Zero.

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