One Malmsbury staff member was allegedly attacked with a plastic cricket bat. (Supplied: Bendigo Magistrates’ Court)
Youth justice workers in central Victoria have stopped work after an alleged attack by teenagers with a plastic cricket bat left a staff member with head injuries.
- Three men appeared in court after allegedly attacking two staff members in Malmsbury on Thursday night
- Staff have been meeting with management as part of an “occupational health and safety cease work”
- The union says overcrowding is to blame for an increase in violent assaults at youth justice centres
Victoria Police said two staff members at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre were allegedly assaulted about 7:30pm on Thursday.
Two 18-year-old men and a 19-year-old man were charged with intentionally and recklessly causing injury, assaulting an emergency worker and affray.
The three men appeared in Bendigo Magistrates’ Court today and will all be sent to an adult prison.
The court heard one of the detainees chased a staff member down a hallway with a plastic cricket bat, hitting him on the head and arm, and breaking his nose and finger.
The court heard one of the men had been involved in eight other assaults during his time in custody.
Another man had 12 violent incidents on his record since May last year with four of them assaults on staff, the court was told.
The court released images of one of the staff member’s injuries. (Supplied: Bendigo Magistrates’ Court)
Magistrate Timothy Walsh remanded one of the 18-year-old men to an adult facility with only minor concerns around his vulnerability in custody due to his age.
The court heard the 19-year-old man had an IQ of 66, and the mental age and emotional maturity of a nine– or 10-year-old.
The other man, and accused instigator of the assaults, was understood to have significant intellectual difficulties.
The prosecution called the general manager of Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre, Andrew Lourey, to stand as a witness for both these men.
Mr Lourey told the court the 19-year-old man had recently been involved in a number of serious incidents.
“The accused has a significant history in youth justice. Eight assaults at either Parkville or Malmsbury.”
“He was involved in riotous behaviour, including in July this year, and he has pending charges of affray,” he told the court.
“He has participated in multiple support programs and we still continue to see this behaviour.” Mr Lourey said.
Despite being asked by the defence to consider the man’s behavioural issues, age and intellectual impairment, the magistrate said he was left with no choice.
“Balancing as best I can, I feel there is no option but to remand him to an adult jail, if for no other reason than for the safety of other inmates and staff,” Mr Walsh said.
Inmates in lockdown
The latest incident comes two days after another worker at the centre was allegedly attacked by an inmate at the same facility with a makeshift knife.
Staff at Malmsbury today stopped work and met with management as part of an “occupational health and safety cease work”.
The centre’s inmates were locked in their bedrooms and were expected to remain in lockdown overnight.
Mr Kennelly said the union was concerned about staff-to-inmate ratios after an increase in violent assaults on workers across Victoria’s youth justice facilities, including 300 incidents in just four months earlier this year.
He said WorkSafe was organising an inspector to visit the centre to determine if there were enough staff.
“We have ongoing assaults each and every day, multiple times a day between the young offenders and involving staff as well,” Mr Kennelly said.
“We have pool cues, pool balls, we had a guitar bashed over the back of an officers head last year at Malmsbury, [which] almost scalped her.
“All the equipment that’s provided to try and facilitate rehabilitation just gets used as weapons.”
Violence ‘won’t be tolerated’, Minister says
Mr Kennelly said the escalation in violence was partly due to overcrowding.
“We’re full at Parkville and Malmsbury, so we have no flexibility and half the population is remand, so when there’s young offenders assaulting other young offenders, where do we move them to to keep them apart? We have limited options.”
Victoria’s Minister for Youth Justice Ben Carroll said the behaviour of a number of young people at the centre was “appalling and our staff shouldn’t have to put up with it”.
He said staff safety was paramount.
“Violent behaviour or assaults at youth justice centres won’t be tolerated,” Mr Carroll said.
“Tough new laws are now in effect — which we introduced — that strengthen consequences for young people who assault youth justice custodial workers or damage property.”
The Opposition’s corrections spokesman David Southwick said the state’s youth justice centre was in crisis.
“The staff walkout at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre highlights just how broken, dysfunctional and dangerous Victoria’s youth justice system has become under Daniel Andrews,” he said.