NT government to pay almost $1m to tear gassed inmates

The Northern Territory government has been ordered to pay almost $1 million to four former Don Dale inmates who were tear gassed almost a decade ago at the youth detention centre.

The four detainees were exposed to CS fogger tear gas by a prison officer after a violent incident broke out at the Darwin centre in August 2014, leading to a confrontation between another inmate and prison staff.

Josiah Binsaris, Keiran Webster, Ethan Austral and Leroy O'Shea were exposed to the gas while being locked inside their rooms.

In 2020 the High Court ruled the four inmates were entitled to compensation for the incident, finding the use of tear gas was deliberate, intentional and unlawful.

The NT Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the government to pay $960,000 to the ex-inmates, with $250,000 in damages awarded to Mr Webster and Ms O’Shea, $240,000 to Mr Austral and $220,000 to Mr Binsaris.

Justice Jenny Blokland said the detainees suffered "callous treatment" at the hands of prison guards after being exposed to the gas.

"There is a sense of grievance expressed as to why they were treated roughly, hand cuffed from behind, placed on the basketball court on their stomachs and hosed," she wrote in her judgment.

"Given what they had endured, they deserved to be treated with more care than the callousness evident on the available footage."

The judge found the plaintiffs were entitled to a higher award of exemplary damages as they were bystanders and youths who were under the care of the territory.

"They were treated as though they were the troublemakers," she said.

"The incident as a whole shows the plaintiffs were treated in a manner which recklessly disregarded their rights and interests."

She said the incident "must never be allowed to happen again" and held the NT government responsible for putting guards in a position where they thought they had no option but to use "unlawful unreasonable and excessive force".

"Young people in custody must be protected from exposure to such danger. This is fundamental," Justice Blokland wrote.

Graphic footage was shown on ABC TV in 2016 of the four detainees being tear-gassed.

That led to the 2017 Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children.

The NT government accepted in full or in principle all 227 recommendations at an estimated cost of $229 million.

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store