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Authorities failed gangland figure Williams

Prison authorities knew there was a risk gangland boss Carl Williams could be murdered in jail but failed to ensure his safety, the Victorian ombudsman says.

Williams was fatally bashed with the stem of an exercise bike by fellow Barwon Prison inmate Matthew Charles Johnson on April 19, 2010.

Ombudsman George Brouwer has heavily criticised Corrections Victoria and police over failings in the lead up to the murder.

Corrections Victoria failed in its statutory duty to ensure Williams’ safety, he said in a report tabled in parliament today.

‘‘Mr Williams’ death raises important questions as to how it is possible that a high profile prisoner in Victoria’s highest security prison unit could be killed with an unsecured metal pipe from an exercise bike, and that prison staff did not find out about the incident for some 27 minutes,’’ he said.


Then Corrections Victoria acting commissioner Rod Wise sent Department of Justice secretary Penny Armytage an email on January 6, 2009 warning of the potential threat Johnson posed to Williams.

In the email, Mr Wise said: ‘‘There is little doubt that Johnson is capable of causing Williams harm if he were to find out the true nature of Williams’ cooperation with police.’’

Notwithstanding these identified risks, Mr Wise and Ms Armytage both supported the placement of Johnson with Williams on the condition the situation be carefully monitored.

Victoria Police also supported the pair being accommodated together despite not undertaking a comprehensive risk assessment of Johnson and the potential harm he posed to Williams.

Five days before Johnson bashed Williams, a prison officer submitted a report recording that a prisoner had told him: ‘‘Everybody knows that (Mr Williams) is co-operating with Victoria Police in exchange for a reduction in his sentence and other benefits.’’

The prison officer said this may be a cause for concern and there might be some attempt to harm Williams.

The officer’s report was not placed on the prison’s intelligence system or referred to the intelligence unit for further review, or to the panel charged with monitoring Williams’ ongoing placement.

No officer knew of Williams’ death until fellow prisoner Tommy Ivanovic and Johnson reported it 27 minutes later.

Williams’ murder was captured by CCTV but the prison officer monitoring it did not see him being bashed.Each small split-screen image was displayed for only four seconds before cutting to a different source.

‘‘Understandably, the console operator did not observe Mr Williams’ assault,’’ Mr Brouwer said.

No action had been taken to address complaints made about the CCTV system over several years.

More than 40 staff were allowed to enter the unit following the murder, thereby compromising the integrity of the scene.

Corrections Victoria commissioner Bob Hastings said this afternoon that no-one had lost lost their job over the failings.

He indicated that the only person who may face sanctions was Andrew Mackenzie, the supervisor of the Acacia Unit where Williams and Johnson were housed.

Mr Brouwer found the unprofessional culture at the prison was largely influenced by Mr Mackenzie, who wrote emails to other staff that included offensive language such as ‘‘soft ass ball toucher’’ and ‘‘homos’’.

He said Ms Armytage did a ‘‘good job’’ but that lessons had been learnt and numerous recommendations would be adopted.

Mr Brouwer made 57 recommendations in his report, 54 of which have been accepted by the Department of Justice.

With Reid Sexton

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