CCC clears officers of misconduct over teen’s death in custody

CCC clears officers of misconduct over teen’s death in custody

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains an image of a person who has died.

Officers working the night Indigenous teen Cleveland Dodd died in the troubled youth wing of a Western Australian adult prison have been cleared of serious misconduct.

But the crime and corruption watchdog probe into the state’s first juvenile death in custody has laid bare a litany of issues inside the facility, leaving the detainee’s family devastated.

Cleveland was found unresponsive in the early hours of October 12, 2023, inside his cell in Unit 18 at Perth’s Casuarina Prison.

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The 16-year-old, who was facing serious charges, had made multiple threats to self-harm and numerous requests for medical treatment and water before he was discovered and taken to hospital, where he died eight days later.

But the Crime and Corruption Commission probe findings handed down this afternoon found no evidence of serious misconduct by officers working that night.

Family advocate Gerry Georgatos said Cleveland’s mother was “devastated, dejected, disappointed”.

“The family feels it’s a betrayal of expectations that no one has been held to account,” he said.

The CCC concluded Unit 18 was trapped in a cycle of destruction.

Its superintendent said the amount of damage to the cells exceeded anything he had seen before and the acting unit manager told the watchdog every cell at unit 18 had a hanging point.

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“The place was set up for failure. It was infrastructure of doom,” Georgatos said.

Dodd had covered the camera in his cell in the hours leading up to him self-harming. 

The commission was told cameras got covered by detainees every day and night but uncovering them was systemically disregarded, particularly at night, due to concerns for safety. 

The probe found the teenager’s death might have been prevented if the officers had been able to see what he was doing via CCTV.

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Cleveland had threatened to self-harm eight times that night, but not one threat was recorded by officers in an incident report, an omission the CCC said was a breach of procedure but not criminal. 

The commission also found no evidence the teenager had been neglected by custodial officers who left him in his cell with a hanging point, accepting there was no viable alternative, as all of the cells were defective in some way.

The findings weren’t enough for the 16-year-old’s family.

“They wanted the truth. They wanted that truth through people being held to account,” Georgatos said.

A coroner’s inquest into the teenager’s death is set to resume next month. 

Crisis support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For 24/7 crisis support run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, contact 13YARN (13 92 76).

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.

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