Jail emergency lifted after search fails to find any sign of firearm

Ian Bushnell 11 November 2019
Alexander Maconochie Centre

All clear: A five-day search has turned up a mix of usual prison contraband. Photo: File.

The emergency lockdown of the Alexander Maconochie Centre has been lifted after a five-day search of the site failed to find any evidence that a firearm had been smuggled into the prison.

Executive Director of ACT Corrective Services Jon Peach had declared the emergency on Wednesday afternoon after speculation that a firearm had been in a parcel thrown over an inner fence after somebody had cut a hole in the outer perimeter wire.

The emergency declaration was revoked at 1:30 pm today (11 November).

Mr Peach said there was no credible intelligence to suggest at any point there was a firearm in the prison but authorities had to plan for the worst-case scenario to ensure the safety of detainees, staff and the community.

”Of course, the hole in the fence suggested that someone was going to great lengths to get an item into the prison,” he said.

Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury lamented the talk about firearms that had prompted the lockdown.

“The safety of detainees, staff and community members is absolutely paramount. Speculation of this kind is never helpful,” he said.

Mr Peach said a systematic search of the prison, including strip search of some prisoners, had turned up contraband, including the contents of the parcel.

Items found included syringes, needles, homemade weapons including knives, an improvised tattoo gun, eight mobile phones, drugs likely to be steroids and diazepines, homebrew, a hacksaw blade and screwdriver.

Mr Peach said police would assess the evidence and determine whether anybody would be charged with an offence or face prison sanctions.

He said the cutting of a hole in a fence was an extraordinary act that showed the boost to intelligence and security capacity in recent years was working.

“We are thwarting ways to bring contraband in through the usual avenues people would use which is why they have had to resort to rather extraordinary methods,” he said.

Mr Peach would not speculate on whether the parcel had been linked to organised criminals or bikies.

The Minister said he was confident the community was safe.

An internal management review was now underway and would report in a couple of weeks, although it is unlikely to be made public.

Mr Rattenbury said information that could be shared would be, and ACT Corrections’ response to the incident would depend on the findings.

He said contraband was a constant issue for prison authorities.

“The introduction of contraband really is an arms race,” he said.

Mr Rattenbury said the ACT was continuing to invest in security, looking at new technologies and working with other jurisdictions to meet the challenges that correction services face.

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