A man who was restrained in a spit mask as a teenager in a Brisbane prison and claims he was “treated like an animal” is suing the Queensland Government for $750,000 in damages, arguing he now suffers post-traumatic stress disorder.
The alleged mistreatment occurred in 2013 when the man, who was then 17 years old and cannot be identified for legal reasons, was held on remand in the Brisbane Correctional Centre at Wacol, reportedly for offences including break and enters, and robbery.
He has filed a damages claim in the District Court of Brisbane against the state for alleged “cruel and degrading treatment” by correctional officers over a five-month period.
The court documents allege that on February 13, 2013, the teenager flushed the last of his toilet paper and pressed a call button in his cell.
The claim says six corrective services officers entered and the young prisoner was ordered to kneel facing the wall with his hands on his head.
Prison CCTV images of the teenager’s time in lock-up at Wacol were obtained by the media.
Helmet ‘intended to punish’
The teenager alleged he was told by one officer: “Today’s the day.”
“The plaintiff was placed into a body-belt to which his hands were cuffed,” the claim states.
“A hood or helmet device was then placed over the plaintiff’s head and face by another corrective services officer.
“The plaintiff was given no explanation or reason [and] was left alone in the cell for over one hour.”
The documents state the actions were intended to punish the 17-year-old for pressing the call button and he was “terrified” and had difficulty seeing and breathing in the restraints.
The teenager alleges that between October 2012 and March 2013 he was separately confined to a small cell for up to 23 hours a day.
The documents state he was limited to one weekly phone call, denied a mattress and bedding during the day and had no access to reading material, television, paper or pens.
He was also allegedly not offered any form of activity or education and was limited to about an hour in a small exercise yard per day.
The 17-year-old was placed in restraints and a spit mask while being held on remand. (ABC News)
“During the separate confinement, the plaintiff was subject to daily strip searches … was limited to eight toilet flushes per 24 hour period [and] was required to get on his knees and place his hands behind his head in order to receive food,” the claim states.
“After about a month [he] had his window papered over so that he could not see out at all.”
The court documents allege the separate confinement was the result of the implementation of a series of management plans called “red plans” and “intensive management plans”, which were unlawful.
“[It] amounted to punishment wholly disproportionate to the behaviour and attitude demonstrated by the plaintiff, involved cruel and degrading treatment [and] amounted to cruel and unusual punishment contrary to the Bill of Rights 1688.”
The plaintiff, now 23, lodged the $750,000 damages claim on the grounds of battery, false imprisonment, misfeasance in public office, negligence and breach of statutory duty.
The court documents allege he suffered psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder from the separate confinement and February 2013 incident.
“The plaintiff suffered feelings that he was being treated like an animal and of terror, hurt and humiliation, outrage, insult, embarrassment and anxiety, distress and emotional harm,” the claim says.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Queensland Corrective Services said because the matter was before the court it would not be appropriate to comment.