The Public Service Association (PSA) has called for a judicial review into the juvenile justice system in NSW in the wake of a violent two-day riot at Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre at Kariong which saw 21 detainees facing charges.
The riot broke out at around 8:30pm on Sunday, July 21, after a number of inmates escaped from containment and began releasing other inmates, assaulting some in the process.
It is understood that inmates armed themselves with makeshift weapons, as well as gardening and labouring equipment, including a pickaxe.
One 18-year-old man was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital in a serious condition suffering stab wounds.
Six other juveniles suffering various injuries from stab wounds to broken bones, were taken to Gosford Hospital for treatment, with an undisclosed number treated at the Centre by NSW Ambulance Paramedics.
Police established a secure perimeter inside the Centre, but a group of inmates barricaded themselves on the roof of one of the facility’s buildings and a 22 hour siege ensued.
Additional resources were deployed from neighbouring police districts, as well as the Public Order and Riot Squad, Operations Support Group, Dog Unit, PolAir, Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, the Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit, and other specialist resources to help Brisbane Water Police restore order.
The siege was ended at around 5:30pm on Monday, July 22, after Riot Squad officers gained access to the roof and the remaining juveniles surrendered peacefully.
Strike Force Mittabah has been established to investigate the incident.
The riot follows two separate incidents in June which saw a staff member assaulted at the centre and eight detainees gain access to a roof, setting some materials alight and throwing projectiles to the ground before the situation was resolved.
PSA Assistant Secretary, Troy Wright, said the latest incident shows violence across the system has reached “epidemic proportions”.
“At Frank Baxter alone, there are 25 staff off work on workers’ compensation for physical and psychological trauma,” Wright said.
“For more than three years, the Public Service Association has been begging the government for therapeutic units which allow the worst of the worst to be segregated.
“It has dragged its heels on this issue, but it can no longer ignore a system in crisis.
“The government could open therapeutic units today – the infrastructure is in the centres now.
“The government must also segregate sex offenders from the general population.”
Wright said the present system does not allow officers within the centre to manage violent offenders.
“On Sunday, the officers enacted their training and retreated to call the police, because they do not have the powers to deal with it,” he said.
“There must be a full judicial review into the juvenile justice system and nothing can be off the table.
“The response must look at the entire system, because these events, serious as they are, are a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.”
“Officers are not asking for weapons or a blank cheque to use brute force.
“But there needs to be legislative change that includes consequences for violence of the kind seen on the weekend.
“There also needs to be internal procedures that introduce consistent and fair consequences for inappropriate or challenging behaviour.”
Shadow Minister for Juvenile Justice, Jihad Dib, has also demanded Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, hold an independent and transparent inquiry into the weekend riot, which he described as “total failure of law and order within the justice system”.
“For too long, the Government has ignored the calls of those working in the juvenile justice system in relation to better regulations, support and training,” Dib said
Five adults and 16 juveniles were charged following this week’s riot.
One adult appeared in Gosford Local Court on Monday with four others set to face the court on Tuesday.
The youths were set to appear at Woy Woy Children’s Court on Tuesday.
Media releases, Jul 21-23
NSW Police Media
Media release, Jul 22
Shadow Minister for Juvenile Justice, Jihad Dib
Media release, Jul 24
Public Service Association
Reporters: Dilon Luke and Terry Collins