Victoria’s Department of Justice and Community Safety has been fined a total of $100,000 following two separate assaults on youth justice workers by children in detention in 2018.
A sentence hearing was held in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after the department earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to provide and maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to health.
The department was convicted and fined $80,000 in relation to an incident at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct in January 2018, and the department was also ordered to pay costs of $16,207.
A youth justice worker required surgery for serious head and shoulder injuries and could not return to work for four months after being struck with a guitar by a child in a courtyard of the centre’s Deakin Unit.
The court heard the department failed to enable its employees to perform their work in a way that was safe and without risks to health by ensuring they were informed and instructed about the restrictions and conditions on the use of, or access to, guitars in the unit.
This included the child not being permitted to use, carry or handle a guitar outside of his bedroom due to a history of violent behaviour in detention, including previously striking another child in the head with a guitar and striking two guards with a guitar.
The department was separately convicted and fined $20,000 in relation to an incident at the Parkville Youth Justice Centre in December 2018.
A youth justice worker sustained serious facial burns and later developed post-traumatic stress disorder after having hot liquid thrown in his face and being punched and kicked by a child in a corridor of the centre’s Park View Unit.
The court heard it was reasonably practicable for the department to provide and maintain a system of work to enforce the unit’s rule that hot drinks were not to be taken out of the kitchen area.
WorkSafe Victoria executive director health and safety Narelle Beer said both incidents could have been prevented.
“It’s not good enough for an employer to have workplace policies and procedures in place if their employees are not made aware of them or not properly instructed on how they should be applied,” Beer said.
“This is an important reminder to all duty holders that they must keep doing everything in their power to address the risks to the health and safety of their employees as they emerge.”