ICAC finds former prison general manager and officers corrupt
Monday 3 June 2019
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that the former general manager/governor of Lithgow Correctional Centre (LCC) and five Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) officers engaged in serious corrupt conduct in relation to the use of excessive force on an inmate and the associated cover-up of the incident.
In a report released today, Investigation into the conduct of NSW Corrective Services officers at Lithgow Correctional Centre (Operation Estry), the Commission finds that LCC general manager (GM) John O’Shea, and officers Terrence Walker, Brian McMurtrie, Elliott Duncan, Simon Graf and Stephen Taylor undertook various roles in the incident and aftermath of 19 February 2014 in which a prisoner, “inmate A” (name suppressed), sustained injuries that required hospital treatment. Inmate A claimed in a later telephone call to his father that he had been “flogged by the squad”, and that the GM was alleged to have been involved. The “squad” refers to the immediate action team (IAT), which comprises specially trained officers whose role is to preserve order where there is potential for inmate violence or a likely need for the application of force.
The Commission found that, following an exchange of “harsh words” between Mr O’Shea and another inmate (“inmate B” – name suppressed), Mr O’Shea incited IAT officer Mr Walker to enter inmate A’s cell and “sort it out”, knowing that Mr Walker would apply physical force to the inmate. Mr O’Shea had mistaken inmate A for inmate B during the verbal exchange on the in-cell intercom system, known among inmates and staff as the “knock-up system”.
The later cover-up involved contravention of policies and procedures, such as Mr O’Shea concealing accurate reports about the use of force (UOF), Mr Walker encouraging officers to prepare false and misleading reports, and Mr McMurtrie creating a false intelligence report concerning the presence of the heroin and methadone withdrawal substance buprenorphine in inmate A’s cell. There was no legitimate reason for the IAT to be sent into the cell. The Commission is satisfied that the contraband was planted by a correctional officer to support a claim that the IAT had entered the cell on 19 February to search for the drug. The ICAC also found that the officers misled CSNSW during its 2015 investigation into the incident by giving false information about the circumstances surrounding, or what they knew about, the UOF on inmate A.
The Commission seeks the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on whether any prosecution should be commenced. The DPP determines whether any criminal charges can be laid, and conducts all prosecutions. The ICAC is of the opinion that the advice of the DPP should be obtained with respect to the prosecution of Mr O’Shea, Mr Walker, Mr McMurtrie, Mr Taylor, Mr Graf and Mr Duncan for various offences including hindering an investigation, perverting the course of justice, or attempting or conspiring to do so, and misconduct in public office. The Commission is of the opinion that the advice of the DPP also should be obtained with respect to prosecuting Mr O’Shea for being a principal in the second degree to the offence of inciting an assault on inmate A, and Mr Walker for the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The investigation identified a number of deficiencies with respect to controls including recordkeeping, image recording, review and oversight, and complaint management and investigation. The Commission has made 19 corruption prevention recommendations to CSNSW to help it improve its systems.
Media contact: ICAC Manager Communications & Media, Nicole Thomas, 02 8281 5799 / 0417 467 801