Annual Report 2004-2005 Ombudsman 27th Report
Tabled paper 283
Tabled papers for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Tabled papers; ParliamentNT
Tabled By Claire Martin
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___________________________________________________________ Ombudsmans Annual Report 2004/05 51 After carefully considering all of the relevant information that was obtained through inquiries, it was determined that, in the main, the complainants issues of complaint could not be substantiated; and moreover, that the actions of FACS appeared to have been reasonably open to them in the circumstances. In so saying however, it was noted that when FACS responded to the issue relating to the use of scare tactics, it acknowledged that although the comments were simply intended to be a strong warning to the family of the consequences (that could be expected if the child suffered further maltreatment), they were somewhat ill-timed. To this extent, FACS commented that the action it took might have been better placed as a last resort rather than the first response. That said, this office concluded that whilst there may have been other courses of action open to FACS in the circumstances, its actions were based on a correct interpretation of the powers afforded to it under the Community Welfare Act, and as such were not inappropriate or unduly threatening. NT CORRECTIONAL SERVICES 1. Why Isnt Anyone Listening? A Solicitor wrote to the Ombudsman on behalf of a prisoner about the laying of misconduct charges against her client. By way of background, the prisoner alleged he was in the process of making a telephone call to his family from his block when a prison officer directed him to hang-up the phone as he was not allowed to make the call before 8.30am. The prisoner alleged he had tried to explain that he was making his call within the permitted time, when the officer became very angry and proceeded to yell and swear at him. The prisoner officer claimed that their instructions were ignored and that the prisoner displayed a belligerent attitude during the incident. As a result of this incident, the prisoner was subsequently found guilty of a charge of misconduct and penalised by of way 10 days loss of privileges. The prisoner formally appealed this decision, asking that the time of the phone-call be checked, stating that other (unidentified) prisoners witnessed the incident in question. His appeal was unsuccessful. Following preliminary inquiries conducted by this Office, which included viewing a broad range of documentation obtained from the Professional Standards Unit and the prisoners legal representative, this Office wrote to the then Acting Commissioner expressing concern that on the whole, the effect of the decision (on appeal) denied the prisoner a full and proper opportunity to identify possible witnesses to the incident in question. Ultimately, it appeared to have adversely affected his ability to challenge the evidence against him. The basis for this view was that the information set out in the prisoners letter of appeal appeared to be of such a nature that it warranted further scrutiny by NT Corrections in an open and transparent forum.
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