NT govt to pay $53,000 to Don Dale teens (clone 1490072126)
NT govt to pay $53,000 to Don Dale teens (clone 1490072126)

The Northern Territory government will pay $53,000 to four teenagers who were tear-gassed at Darwin's Don Dale youth detention centre after it lost a civil lawsuit.

The boys, who cannot be named, sued the NT government after they were shackled, spit-hooded and tear-gassed in August 2014, arguing it amounted to assault and battery.

In the NT Supreme Court on Tuesday, Justice Judith Kelly ruled that the government would pay three of the boys $12,000 each in damages, while the fourth former inmate would receive $17,000.

The detention centre where the boys were tear-gassed. Photo: AAP

Six teens were tear gassed in August 2014 after one inmate, Jake Roper, escaped his solitary confinement cell and began trashing an exercise yard.

Five of the six boys had been held in isolation for up to 17 days straight, for up to 23 hours per day, after earlier escaping from the centre.

In handycam footage captured moments before the gas was sprayed, one guard can be heard saying "I'll pulverise the little f*****."

Footage of the incident was aired on national television last year, prompting Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call a royal commission into the juvenile justice system.

The detainees were later hosed down on the jail's basketball court and transferred to Berrimah adult prison.

"In addition to handcuffing the plaintiffs behind rather than in front, the defendant wrongfully applied shackles and a spit hood to each plaintiff," Justice Kelly said.

Four teens who were tear-gassed at the Don Dale youth detention centre in Darwin have won a civil lawsuit. Photo: AAP

"I have no doubt that this would have caused the plaintiffs considerable distress and humiliation, especially as youths being marched past adult prisoners."

But Justice Kelly said the guards' conduct was not "knowingly malicious, violent, cruel, insolent, high-handed or an abuse of power or indeed knowingly wrongful at all".

She said the officers' use of restraints was an over-reaction to the violence and destruction perpetrated by some of the detainees.

"(It) amounted to unnecessary precautions motivated by fear that the plaintiffs might escape again and/or a perception that they otherwise presented a high security risk," she said.

But Justice Kelly said the teens needed to be compensated for mental suffering, which was higher because of their age and compounded by a sense of injustice that some of them hadn't taken part in the "riotous behaviour".

Dylan Voller was strapped to a restraint chair, shackled and hooded. Photo: ABC

Outside court, lawyers for the teens said they would consider the decision but had no further comment.

Submissions are expected to be made for the plaintiffs' court costs.

The case was one of three separate civil actions brought by former Don Dale detainees.

Roper and Dylan Voller - whose image shackled to a restraint chair shocked the national when aired on television last year - are also suing the NT government over their alleged mistreatment.

Four guards restrain the teenager at the Don Dale Detention Centre. Photo: ABC

A class action has also been launched by other former inmates in the Federal Court, and lawyer Ben Slade said he was encouraged by Tuesday's ruling, especially that Justice Kelly ordered aggravated damages be paid.

"In light of this verdict, we call on the Northern Territory government to take this opportunity to meet with us, and to work through an appropriate settlement," he said.

The juvenile justice royal commission heard on Monday that former Don Dale Detention Centre Youth justice officer Conan Zamolo said he was "just mucking around" when he dared a child to "eat s***", in a video he later posted on social media app Snapchat in 2014.

Sacked Don Dale guard Conan Zamolo.

The inquiry also heard from Ben Kelleher, who worked at the facility in 2014 when boys were shackled, spit hooded and tear gassed after one escaped from solitary confinement and began trashing an exercise yard.

He described the Don Dale Behavioural Management Unit where youths were held in solitary confinement as a "s***hole" that was used as a punishment.

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VIDEO A former Don Dale guard says he was only joking around when he asked a detainee to give him oral sex. Guard claims he was 'mucking around' in SnapChat videos
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