Northern Territory halts use of restraint chairs and spithoods in youth detention

Government is also moving to remove detainees from Don Dale facility and is assessing former immigration detention centres as alternative accommodation

The use of restraint chairs and spithoods in Northern Territory juvenile detention centres has been suspended until at least the end of the upcoming royal commission.

The government is also taking steps to immediately remove detainees from the Don Dale youth correctional facility and is assessing former immigration detention centres as alternative accommodation.

The suspension comes after ABC program Four Corners aired footage of alleged abuse of teenagers in the Don Dale juvenile detention centre.

Four Corners shows boy being stripped by Northern Territory detention staff

The NT chief minister, Adam Giles, said on Wednesday the controversial and highly criticised restraints would not be used until a “review” had taken place. On Thursday that decision was expanded, and a spokesman has confirmed to Guardian Australia that their use is now “banned”.

A corrections department spokesperson confirmed to Guardian Australia that use of the restraints had stopped, but believed it was a “temporary suspension”.

It is not clear if the instruments are being physically removed from the juvenile facilities.

There is currently a review under way into the correctional system as a whole, and the government “intends to appoint an inspector general from interstate to undertake an immediate health check of our juvenile justice system.”

Giles had also said he would like to see the royal commission examine the appropriateness of the restraints, despite his government passing legislation expanding and strengthening the scope for their use just three months ago.

The chief minister’s office also confirmed the government is assessing all former immigration detention centres, including the recently closed Wickham Point, as alternative accommodation for the children held at Don Dale.

Advocates and justice agencies have been calling for alternative accommodation since the detainees were first transferred to Don Dale in 2014. The site – a former adult prison in Berrimah – was labeled “only fit for a bulldozer” by the former corrections commissioner prior to the transfer.

Giles has since promised a brand new facility, a proposal repeatedly rejected by the attorney general, John Elferink, who said it was too expensive. Elferink was stripped of his role as corrections minister but retained his other portfolios and was praised by Giles.


Helen Davidson in Darwin

The GuardianTramp

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