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NT govt moves to ban restraint chairs

AAP logoAAP 24/10/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

The Northern Territory government has moved to permanently ban the use of mechanical restraint chairs for young offenders in detention.

NT Families Minister Dale Wakefield introduced an urgent bill into parliament on Tuesday as part of an election promise in response to the Don Dale Detention Centre scandal.

Under the changes, handcuffs, ankle cuffs, and waist-restraining belts must only be used with the approval of the Commissioner of Correctional Services.

It comes after an ABC's Four Corners program which aired footage of boys being tear gassed, spit hooded and strapped to restraint chairs at Don Dale, sparking a national outcry and a royal commission.

Under the The Youth Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, prison guards can only use restraints as a last resort, and where methods of engaging a youth detainee to de-escalate behaviour have been exhausted.

The Commissioner's decisions on the use of restraints must also be made available to the public.

Ms Wakefield said the ABC investigation had a "significant impact on the community, as evident from the number of community members who approached me expressing their distress at what had occurred".

She said the new Labor government's priority is to ensure young people are treated with respect and dignity while also guaranteeing the safety of guards.

"These priorities are not mutually exclusive and I am committed to consulting and working with staff, and with the community," she said.

Ms Wakefield also committed to a full review of the current Youth Justice Act and to the introduction of a new contemporary Youth Justice Act.

"This new act will reflect international standards and the standards set by the Australasian Juvenile Justice Administrators," she said.

"(It) will only be drafted after extensive community consultation and will be guided by the findings of the current royal commission."

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