The only good news surrounding this story might be that scientists suggest they are on the brink of a breakthrough on dementia.
The Honourable Stephen Pendrill Charles might have been joking when he said the government’s new powers of detention would allow security guards, “to beat asylum seekers in detention to death.” A Preposterous suggestion from a learned man.
Stephen Charles was educated at Geelong Grammar School and Trinity College, Melbourne University, where he gained a Bachelor of Law (Hons) degree. In 1961, he signed the Roll of Counsel at the Victorian Bar and served in the Supreme Court of Victoria from 1995 to 2006. No longer a young man!
“A former Victorian Supreme Court judge says proposed new powers for security guards at detention centres would allow them “to beat asylum seekers in detention to death” with impunity. In his submission of evidence to Senate hearings on changes to Australia’s Migration Act, Stephen Charles SC said proposed amendments would make it harder to bring legal action against a guard who inflicted harm, and may even encourage it.”
Proposed powers allow guards ‘to beat asylum seekers in detention to death’, former judge says
“The way I put it was that the guards were authorised to beat asylum seekers in detention centres to death,” he told the ABC’s PM program.
“Guards in detention centres will feel freer to exercise force, to use force against detainees on the ground that they’ve been told that they can do so where they think there is reasonable necessity.”
The Senate hearing is considering new laws designed to keep order at detention centres.
It follows the release of the long-awaited Moss review, which highlighted allegations of sexual and physical assault on asylum seekers, including children, at the Nauru centre.
Mr Charles said he also provided evidence that under the changes, officers would get a greater level of immunity than was given to police right across Australia, and less training.
“The impression all of us had in giving evidence was that would get them something like a fortnight’s qualification, which would be hopelessly inadequate,” he said.
He said he told the Senate hearing the new powers were “a joke in extremely bad taste”.
“I myself think that the amendments should be completely canned and they should start again from scratch,” he said.
Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs also spoke out against the proposed changes, saying it would become virtually impossible to bring legal action if guards did turn violent.
Ms Triggs said she recognised there may be occasions where private contractors would have to use force against people in detention, but took issue with the extent of powers the new bill would give them.
“Contracted detention service providers, for practical purposes, the Serco guards, are not police officers,” she told the hearing.
“They should not be given wider powers or greater discretion. And there should be clearly defined limits to the power of contractors to use force.”
Ms Triggs said the department’s policy guidelines over the use of force were already clear.
“Force should be a measure of last resort, it should be used only for the shortest amount of time necessary, it should never be cruel, inhuman or degrading,” she said.
“It should not be a punishment for that, of course, is a judicial and not an executive power, and it must not be excessive.”
Ms Triggs said the language of the bill needed to be tightened up.
“If the power to use force is to be set out in the Migration Act then it seems to us particularly appropriate that the limits on that power should also be in the act itself, rather than confined to a policy document,” she said.