Cops deny boy 'left naked' for days in watch house
Queensland police have disputed reports of an intellectually impaired indigenous boy held naked inside a police watch house in Brisbane for days.
Disability advocates said today they were shocked at the revelations after the ABC obtained documents it says reveal the boy was pinned down and stripped by officers.
"We're absolutely outraged that a child with a disability, a child with suicidal ideation, has been left naked in a cell for three days," People With Disability Australia's Frances Quan Farrant told the ABC today.
"This is abhorrent, and it's a gross violation of this child."
Emails released to the ABC from the Child Safety Department and the Office of the Public Guardian detail their concerns for the child.
"(Redacted name) reported that he only has a blanket to wrap around himself and that he is back in his cell block with his cell mates and that he is completely naked," an email from the child safety officer said.
"(Redacted name) reported that he has the suicide smock that they have requested that he put on however he doesn't with to put it on due to feelings of shame around this."
But police say he was identified as a risk and provided with a suicide protection garment - as is standard QPS custodial practice.
Inquiries indicate the juvenile was not naked and remained clothed throughout, they said on Tuesday.
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He chose to wear the garment as a sarong for a period of time instead of in the traditional way.
Police have been asked if the boy had any other clothing on while he wearing the garment as a sarong.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was not comfortable with information leaked and has ordered an investigation.
"I've asked for an investigation into that ... but my understanding is there's more to that story so I might leave that for others to comment," she said.
She said her Director-General was doing a comprehensive investigation into issues raised by Public Guardian Natalie Siegel-Brown and aired by Four Corners.
"Police also have to investigate it because it is in a police watch house and the ethical standards command is doing that," she said.
The Office of the Public Guardian also escalated a complaint over the issue.
The Queensland government has been under pressure over the holding of children as young as 10 in maximum security watch houses built for adults for weeks at a time because state youth detention facilities are full.
It has created a new Department of Youth Justice to be led by former Deputy Police Commissioner Bob Gee to address the issue.
Last month, the ABC Four Corners program revealed it had obtained hundreds of documents detailing cases of children being held, sometimes for weeks, in adult watch houses because the state's youth detention centres are full.
In one case a boy aged under 14 was held at the Mareeba, Cairns and Brisbane watch houses for 34 days.
Another boy, age unknown, was held in isolation for 23 days at the Brisbane watch house.
In another case a girl, age unknown, lost a finger in a door at the Brisbane watch house.
A girl, 16, learned she was about 11 weeks pregnant while being held at the Brisbane watch house for 25 days.
Many of the children had intellectual disabilities and psychological issues.
Public Guardian Natalie Siegel-Brown told the program the children were held "like caged animals in concrete pens".
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said police are struggling to cope.
"We don't have the support or the facilities to be able to properly house these young people who are in custody," he told the program.
Queensland's Minister for Child Safety, Di Farmer, told Four Corners that the Government has no alternative.
"If a magistrate has ordered for them to be in the watch house and we cannot, do not have any space in the detention centre, then there is no alternative for them," she said.
Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said police were being treated like babysitters.
"(Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to front up and answer the questions, this is a crisis of her own making," Ms Frecklington said.
The government last week introduced laws requiring authorities to bring arrested and detained young people before the Children's Court within 24 hours, or on the next available day.