Police in the Northern Territory are searching for an escapee from Darwin’s Don Dale youth detention centre believed to be injured after fleeing over a razor wire fence.
The NT Government department responsible for youth justice, Territory Families, said the 17-year-old male fled just minutes after arriving at the facility this morning, as officers filled out paperwork and thought he was showering.
“The young person then exited the building through an emergency exit door while the Youth Justice Officers’ view was obscured by the reception desk,” the department said in a statement.
“NT Police were immediately notified and were onsite by 12.51am.”
The department said the teenager then scaled two fences, including one topped with razor wire, to make his escape.
His disappearance has sparked an ongoing ground search with a number of police officers and a dog, in an effort to find which direction he is heading in.
“[We’re] pretty confident he’s outside the confines of the Don Dale centre itself,” Territory Duty Superintendent Shaun Gill said.
“The direction he’s travelling in is still being investigated.”
‘This is not ideal’ says acting Chief Minister
The NT’s acting Chief Minister Nicole Manison announced an immediate probe into the issue to ensure it is addressed properly and does not happen again.
“This is not ideal, clearly, but there is a lot of work out there happening right now from police and Territory Families to apprehend this young person,” Ms Manison said.
Staff supervision practices and escape emergency response procedures at the centre will also be reviewed in wake of the morning’s incident, which is just one of several escapes from the facility — a former adult prison — this year alone.
In one case in April, two escaped detainees allegedly carjacked a woman on the Stuart Highway and rammed a police vehicle.
Plans to replace Don Dale
The royal commission into the Territory’s youth justice system gave a scathing review of the centre in its final report handed down in November, recommending it be closed and the NT Government report back by early next year on plans to decommission the facility.
Ms Manison said plans to replace the centre are going well, with her government continuing to lobby its federal counterparts to match its $50 million commitment towards capital works.
“There is a lot of work happening within the Government to look at these very issues that were raised by the royal commission, clearly this is a big job but this is all happening at the moment.”
But it has also been revealed the Government plans to spend up to $2 million on upgrades to the current facility after an audit found the fire protection system needs boosting.
Anyone who believes they may have seen the youth involved in today’s incident, or know his whereabouts, is urged to contact police.