A Perth magistrate says the immigration department "effectively sabotaged" police investigations into a riot by detainees on Christmas Island and allowed key players to escape justice.
Magistrate Stephen Malley on Thursday ruled on whether five Sri Lankan Tamil detainees took part in a riot at the detention centre on November 21 last year.
He said it was "bizarre" that within 48 hours of the extremely violent riot, the immigration department shipped off 40 detainees to mainland detention centres, many of whom were heavily involved in the violence.
The actions of the immigration department "effectively sabotaged" investigations into the riot by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Mr Malley said.
The court heard that Afghan detainees were violently set upon by Sri Lankan detainees following a dispute between the two groups.
Mr Malley said rioters had armed themselves with tree branches, pool cues, mop handles, chairs and parts of soccer goal posts that were dismantled during the violence.
He said that following the riot the immigration department showed "little or no regard whether those they were releasing committed serious or criminal acts".
The department showed "reckless disregard" for the significance of the events, the magistrate said.
He found that the AFP had limited assistance from the immigration department.
But he said that the video interviews conducted by police were "poorly done and in most instances worthless".
Photo boards used by police for identification during the investigation were also inadequate, the magistrate said.
He also found that staff employed by the firm Serco, charged with running the centre, were "not well trained in the manner in which to deal with these events".
Mr Malley said the case had been frustrating for the court given the inadequacy of the investigations and the "considerable money" invested in bringing five of the lesser players before the courts.
Those more seriously involved were in effect "assisted to evade prosecution", he said.
The magistrate found only two of the Sri Lankans guilty of rioting and three of them guilty of weapons possession.
Two were found not guilty on both charges.
The five Sri Lankans sat together in the dock in the Perth Magistrates Court listening to the judgments through an interpreter.
Pranavan Sivasubramaniyam and Anburajan Anton were found guilty of rioting and were given six-month jail sentences suspended for six months.
They and Gnararajah Jesurajah were also found guilty of weapons possession and on those charges were each put on good behaviour bonds of $500.
Anantharajeevan Thangarasha and Kokilakumar Subramanian were found not guilty.
All five have been granted refugee status but have been kept in detention in Perth pending the result of their trial.
They should all be released from detention within weeks.
The court heard the riot started in the Green compound on Christmas Island and spread onto the sports oval.
Sri Lankans, agitated over an earlier confrontation in which Tamils were injured, gathered and pursued outnumbered Afghans, bashing many of them in a "violent confrontation based on racial lines", Mr Malley found.
"The evidence is of a running battle, with Afghanis retreating towards the medical compound chased by the Sri Lankan detainees."
In sentencing, Mr Malley told the three convicted men they had allowed their emotions to affect their better judgment.
He said it was important for people going through the detention process to understand they had to show restraint and good judgment.
The court earlier heard that detention centre officers were also injured in the riot and feared for their safety.
4 Nov 2010
Another CLEAR indication that supports the migration of criminals into Australia under the 'refugee' banner.
This is done at the highest level of Global Politics, and the global 'trend' is unstoppable.