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Cleveland Dodd inquest hears probationary Unit 18 officer expressed nervousness in assuming senior officer role

Rhiannon Clarke -

A probationary corrections officer was required to step in as the lead officer in the juvenile section of an adult prison the night Indigenous teenager Cleveland Dodd fatally injured himself, a coronial inquiry into his death has heard.

Cleveland Dodd was found unconscious in his cell in Unit 18 at Casuarina Prison in Perth on October 12, 2023, marking Western Australia's first juvenile death in custody.

Prior to being found and taken to the hospital, the 16-year-old had made eight statements about harming himself. Tragically, he succumbed to his injuries in hospital eight days later.

On Tuesday, youth custodial officer Nina Hayden told the coronial inquest into Cleveland's death that she received no training and was abruptly assigned to the role with only a two-hour notice.

"I got called before my shift and told there was no senior officer for the night and could I fill the role," she said on Tuesday.

"I remember not being sure if I wanted to do that with the little experience I had."

Coroner Phil Urquhart was informed that although there were officers with more experience on duty, none were willing to take on the task.

Ms Hayden mentioned that a senior officer from the prior shift spent approximately two hours guiding her through the process of completing various reports before leaving her in charge of overseeing detainees and staff during the night shift.

She expressed feeling nervous and unable to decline when she was requested to assume the senior officer position for a second shift upon arriving at the unit the next day.

Ms. Hayden completed two shifts as the senior officer before Cleveland harmed himself that night.

During the inquest into Cleveland's treatment at Unit 18, it was revealed he was agitated and made several requests for medical attention and water, however staff hesitated to open cell doors at night due to staffing constraints and safety concerns.

Throughout the day he had been confined to his cell, which lacked basic amenities such as running water, an environment he would have to endure until morning before being provided with any form of hydration.

In an attempt to maintain some privacy, Cleveland had covered a CCTV camera in his cell with tissue paper, obstructing the view of the correctional staff who were responsible for monitoring him. It was not until they were desperately fighting to save his life that they bothered to uncover the camera.

The series of threats made by Cleveland to harm himself on October 11 and 12 stemmed from the fact that the night shift staff had repeatedly ignored his pleas for water, believing that he had already been given six cups by the day shift officer.

According to the United Nations, it is mandated that "drinking water shall be available to every prisoner whenever he or she needs it."

In the 86 days leading up to October 12, Cleveland spent a staggering 22 hours or more per day confined to his cell on 75 of those days. Furthermore, he had only received three hours of schooling in the span of four weeks.

Lifeline 13 11 14

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Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

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