Canberra's independent inspector of prisons has started a full investigation into Friday evening's bizarre prison breakout in which a mid-sized Toyota sedan carrying an at-risk inmate was deliberately rammed multiple times, and two corrections officers injured.
The prison sedan was extensively damaged after being deliberately rammed multiple times by a heavy Jeep 4WD. The handcuffed prisoner being conveyed in the sedan escaped and fled in the Jeep, driven by an accomplice. He was later arrested in the roof space of a house in Lyneham.
Neil McAllister, the ACT's Inspector of Correctional Services, has confirmed that he is gathering all the information he requires to conduct a full investigation of Friday's debacle, which was captured in dramatic detail on dashcam vision by a man driving down Canberra Avenue at the time.
"I spoke to Ray Johnson [the ACT's head of Correctional Services] on Friday night to advise him that my investigation would begin immediately," Mr McAllister said.
"Our office doesn't need approvals from anyone to launch investigations; this is deemed a critical incident, an escape from custody, so clearly this needs to be fully investigated."
Mr McAllister was appointed to his independent role after an inquiry found significant issues, anomalies and breaches within ACT Corrections which contributed to the 2016 death in custody in Canberra of indigenous prisoner Stephen Freeman.
He said that the material he would be requesting from Friday's incident would include intelligence reports, phone records, video recordings and any other material he deems pertinent to his investigation.
"My office has quite far-reaching powers of investigation but generally speaking, they [Corrections] are pretty helpful in this process," he said.
One crucial element which is certain to be highlighted is one which Mr McAllister had identified in one of his previous reports six months ago.
In December last year he tabled a report in the ACT Assembly in which he identified that there had been "anomalies" in the decision by ACT Corrections to purchase a Toyota Camry to join its Court Transport Unit (CTU).
The Corrections Management (Escort) Policy and Procedure 2017 specifies that detainees at-risk "due to suicide or self-harm concerns must be escorted in a sedan or station wagon".
The Camry was purchased specifically for this purpose but the decision soon was criticised by Corrective Services officers, who said the mid-sized vehicle was too small and "unfit for purpose".
Prison officers are required to wear bulky personal protective equipment (PPE) such as body armour, and officers believed the Camry's cabin was too small for four adults, "in which three had to wear PPE".
Mr McAllister's report agreed with that view and recommended that the Justice and Community Safety Direcriorate (JACS) conduct a review of the processes around the acquisition of its transport vehicles.
And yet a full six months later, the Camry was still being used by corrections staff.
"In reality, and even leaving aside the PPE issue, a Toyota Camry is a mid-sized family car with a back seat that would be a tight squeeze for three average size adults," the report found.
"It is unclear to us why an at-risk detainee could not be transported safely in a larger-seat capacity vehicle that would provide more room for the detainee and safe-distancing of staff.
"Further, as the Camry is unsuitable as a general-use escort vehicle it may end up being under-utilised and poor value for money."
Mr McAllister said that his report on Friday's critical incident would take several weeks to prepare. His draft report is submitted to Justice and Community Safety for comment over a six-week period before being tabled in the ACT Assembly.
"Realistically, the quickest we can do the report given the resources we have, and given the six-week period that JACS retains it for, is about eight weeks," he said.
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