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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 1625 ..


Corrective Services

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Justice and Community Safety. When sentencing two former Belconnen Remand Centre custodial officers on charges of perjury, Mr Justice Higgins referred in his judgment made in August to a "kind of brotherhood mentality that has enabled corruption to flourish". Can the Minister say whether the case Justice Higgins referred to was an isolated example of corruption, or is there reason to believe this brotherhood culture is more widespread in the Corrective Services Division, including at the Periodic Detention Centre?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, this is actually a very good question. I am not sure whether it is within standing orders, but I do not take that point, because I think it is a very pertinent question. I take the comments made by Justice Higgins in that matter very seriously. I think he has identified a very serious problem which goes beyond the conduct merely of those individuals who were the subject of the proceedings in which he made those remarks. We clearly have a problem with a whole series of issues, including the culture of institutions like the Remand Centre. I have to indicate to the house that I am not confident that we have been able to remove any problems that occur at the BRC from crossing over to the Periodic Detention Centre at Symonston.

There have been other incidents not, I am pleased to say, as serious as that concerning the particular incident that Justice Higgins was involved with, but certainly incidents that are serious in the way in which the operation of individuals at the PDC is concerned. I remain concerned about that and determined that we should set in train processes that will avoid that problem.

Mr Speaker, in the long term I believe that the issue is addressed by the establishment of our own institution. How that occurs goes to the question of whether we will be able to prevent this particular problem from crossing over into any new institution. We also, of course, need to put in place short-term solutions to address real issues to do with particular problems that are raised in particular matters.

I am aware that there is a suppression order in place in respect of the proceedings about which Mr Stanhope has raised his question and therefore I do not want to answer particularly relevant to this particular case. But to the extent that there is evidence of a problem with a culture, a brotherhood mentality as Mr Stanhope quoted Mr Justice Higgins as saying, I accept that there is a problem and I accept that it goes further than the particular case that has been raised here. I believe that this is an issue that the Government will need to address.

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