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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 23 November 2006) . . Page.. 3868 ..

Belconnen Remand Centre

MRS BURKE: My question is to the Attorney-General and relates to his responsibilities for corrections. Minister, I have received advice that ACT corrections is locking down detainees at the Belconnen Remand Centre for extended periods. I have heard that this is creating a tense atmosphere amongst detainees, which is threatening to blow up. Is this correct? If so, why is ACT corrections locking down detainees for extended periods?

MR CORBELL: All correctional facilities have a process for lock down of a facility for a range of operational reasons. “Lock down” is the term used when all detainees are detained in their cells or other accommodation for a period of time. There may be security or operational reasons for that to occur. That is a normal procedure in all correctional environments.

I know that in the ACT the use of such an approach is limited only to when it is absolutely needed. But it is a standard approach in correctional facilities to lock down facilities for a period. I do not know what Mrs Burke refers to as extended periods. If she wishes to provide me either now or later with further advice on what she means by that, I may be able to better ascertain the particulars of the circumstances she is raising concern about.

MRS BURKE: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. How is this practice consistent with the Human Rights Act?

MR CORBELL: Mrs Burke has failed to demonstrate exactly what the concern is. Is an extended period one hour? Is an extended period all day? Three days? I do not know what Mrs Burke’s complaint is. She has not been able to tell me what this so-called extended period is. Clearly if it were occurring for days at a time, that would be of serious concern. But as I have indicated, all correctional facilities lock down their facilities from time to time for safety, security or operational reasons. That is a normal mechanism for managing the movement of persons within a correctional facility. It happens in jails around the country; it happens in our remand centre.

There are particular difficulties with the Belconnen Remand Centre that those opposite should be more than aware of. The Belconnen Remand Centre is a real rabbit-warren of a facility: you have to physically walk through some parts of that facility to get to other parts of the facility—you cannot bypass them; they are not discrete elements. That means that at times—in terms of moving particular remandees—other remandees must be kept in their cells for security or safety reasons.

One of the reasons we need a dedicated, properly built remand centre is so that we can move remandees in and out of the facility without their coming into contact with other remandees who may be of a different security classification or a different risk profile, and without impinging on the reasonable movement of other remandees. That does happen at Belconnen. I have seen it myself. That is down to the physical nature of the remand centre. It is a maze of corridors, rooms, courtyards and cells, and it is well past its useful date.

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