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Child acquitted of assaulting police at detention centre

Police called in to cover a pandemic-related Brisbane Youth Detention Centre staff shortage had not completed physical intervention training when they used force to move a child into a cell, a court has found.

Details of the 5 September 2020 incident were revealed during a Brisbane Childrens Court trial in which a child, identified only as WEB, defended charges of seriously assaulting three senior constable police officers enlisted as temporary youth detention centre workers.

Childrens Court Judge Ian Dearden, in a decision published on Tuesday, found WEB not guilty of four counts of allegedly assaulting three police officers at a time when none of them were trained or qualified to use “reasonable force” to move him into two different cells.

The court had been told WEB was accused of serious assault for allegedly striking, biting, kicking or spitting on officers “performing a duty imposed by law” as temporary detention centre employees under the Youth Justice Act 1992 at Wacol, on Brisbane’s western outskirts.

“Each of the (police officers) gave evidence that they were working as temporary youth detention centre workers at Brisbane Youth Detention Centre, Paperbark Wing, because of a lack of staff due to the COVID crisis,” he said.

During a three day trial – between 30 August and 1 September 2021 – the officers gave evidence about WEB being disruptive and “not compliant with any direction” when he assaulted one officer and then others as they moved him to a “time-out cell”.

Judge Dearden also heard evidence regarding whether two of the officers who restrained WEB had received training of approved methods of physical intervention with youth detainees.

“In my view, the evidence clearly demonstrates that neither of the (police) complainants had ‘successfully completed physical intervention training’ … or at the very least, there is simply no evidence before me that either of them has completed any such training.”

At the conclusion of the trial, lawyers for WEB made a “no case to answer” application on behalf of the child.

Judge Dearden granted the application on all four charges and found WEB not guilty on each count.

In his 11-page ruling, Judge Dearden details allegation levelled by police, provides excerpts of their evidence to the court and his reasons for WEB’s subsequent acquittal.

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