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Guards accused of negligence

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 1995, 12:00am

A THUNDERSTORM warning prompted Correctional Services Department guards to desert their observation tower and take shelter while 90 Vietnamese cut the perimeter fences of High Island Detention Centre, a government report has found.

The department's board of inquiry interim report, handed to the Security Branch this week, found 'gross staff negligence on the part of the night orderly officer and two staff manning the posts between which the escape took place'.

'Because of a thunderstorm warning earlier in the night, the staff on duty on the high-rise observation tower overseeing the area was withdrawn for fear of being struck by lightning,' the inquiry board found.

The report calls for metal sheets to be fixed over wire fences, extra staff on patrols, surprise government inspections of detention centres, improved lighting systems, repositioning of sentry posts and the fitting of lightning rods on sentry towers.

The investigation revealed that only two to three Vietnamese had planned the escape. The others followed simply because the openings were there.

The majority of those recaptured claimed they ran away because they were afraid of impending forced repatriation.

Other Vietnamese claimed they wanted to get a job, or visit friends and relatives, or simply to have a look outside.

Police were called to hunt for the escaped Vietnamese in the Sai Kung area throughout the day.

One apparently drowned during the escape.

Ten escapees are still missing.