Kids ‘locked in police caged wagons’, says Amnesty
NORTHERN Territory children as young as 10 are being regularly locked in "police cages" and driven hundreds of kilometres to youth detention centres, in a practice deemed "shocking" and "totally inappropriate" by a leading human rights group.
The NT News can reveal Amnesty International Australia has received "numerous reports" of children being transported, unrestrained, in police caged "paddy wagons" for periods of up to five hours.
The caged paddy wagons, covered with a blue tarpaulin, and lined with a thin mattress, means children are exposed to the elements, with reports they sometimes flip the mattress up against the door to protect themselves from the cold and bugs.
Amnesty International has alleged transporting children this way is in breach of international law, specifically the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and also against the NT Police Force's "Custody and Transport Instruction".
The organisation will today launch a petition demanding an end to this practice.
An NT Police spokesman said youth "on occasion" were driven by police from Tennant Creek to Alice Springs under court orders, and while flying was the preferred method of transport, this was not always "practicable or available".
NT Police denied the use of caged paddy wagons was in contravention of their internal custody and transport instructions and said children, if they were victims or in custody of police for care or protection, were transported in the cage as a "last resort".
"NT Police has previously trialled alternatives to the current design, including the modular style used in other jurisdictions, but the trials were discontinued," the police spokesman said.
"We are currently exploring vehicle options for other reasons but have not made any commitments at this stage."
The spokesman said police vehicles were chosen with "detainee safety" as a priority.
Amnesty International indigenous rights adviser Rodney Dillon said there was already historical mistrust between mob and police, and treating children in this manner would not assist the relationship. Mr Dillon said stopping the use of caged paddy wagons was "about humanity but also safety".
"When there's an accident and there is a child in this cage, it's going to be horrendous," Mr Dillon said.
"It's not good enough, it's totally unnecessary and we need the NT police to stop doing it immediately."
Amnesty International approached NT Police about the issue in February, but were told the practice would remain.
The NT PFES spokesman said the vehicles were "certified safe for the transport of prisoners and detainees" and seatbelts could not be fitted in the cages as it posed a risk to the safety of persons in custody.
Police confirmed the vehicles had previously been involved in crashes.
Originally published as Kids as young as 10 'locked in police caged wagons': Amnesty