Mr Bevan Spencer von Einem

15 Nov 2006 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Correctional Services a question about Bevan Spencer von Einem.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Honourable members would be aware of the newly surfaced allegations in relation to the treatment of Mr von Einem in B division of Yatala.

One aspect in particular has highlighted that there is an investigation into possible breaches of standards of conduct of correctional services officers in relation to the purchase of greeting cards. My questions are:

1. Are any other aspects being investigated?

2. When did the minister first become aware of the matter?

3. What prompted the investigation? Was it the Sunday Mail, or was it an internal prompt?

4. Over what period are the sales alleged to have taken place?

5. How many officers are involved?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Correctional Services): Of course I am aware of the recent media reports alleging, amongst other things, that correctional services officers have been paying prisoner Bevan Spencer von Einem for paintings. If these allegations are proved, this alleged behaviour is totally unacceptable and reprehensible.

These actions are not condoned by this government or departmental management and are the subject, as members have probably read, of a full investigation. Indeed, if true, all the alleged conduct is in breach of the Department for Correctional Services and the South Australian Public Service codes of conduct. The department’s code of conduct clearly prohibits staff from entering into any transactions with prisoners outside their normal course of duty. It does not permit staff to have financial transactions with prisoners in any way.

The allegations are far reaching and extend over a period of some years, commencing well before this government’s tenure. I am certain that all honourable members are concerned about the allegations that South Australian public servants have engaged in inappropriate behaviour of this nature. If these allegations are true, we will pursue those who have behaved inappropriately with the full force of the law.

I am particularly concerned about the hurt and distress that these accusations are likely to have on the victims of this offender. I am disturbed that after all these years information comes to light indicating that this prisoner may have received preferential treatment by some correctional officers. Again, let me assure this chamber that this government does not, and never will, condone this type of behaviour.

All the accusations are taken very seriously and are being comprehensively investigated, as has been reported. I have asked the chief executive to keep me informed if these allegations identify deficiencies in our systems, policies or the Correctional Services Act, and to recommend any changes necessary to improve accountability within the correctional system. I, in turn, undertake to keep the council informed about any actions resulting from this investigation to the fullest extent possible, without the risk of prejudicing any required actions.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In the minister’s briefings with the department’s CEO that she referred to in her response, did the CEO identify any of those deficiencies within the system?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: Obviously I have been briefed, and I am continuing to be briefed. However, as I have just mentioned, I do not want to prejudice any actions that we may require to be undertaken.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a supplementary question arising from the minister’s answer. I may be paraphrasing the minister’s answer, but the minister stated that there is no special treatment in the system for von Einem.

What constitutes—

The PRESIDENT: The member can ask her question or she can sit down, please.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: No; I have just referred to—

The PRESIDENT: Well, ask your question.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I will. My question is: what part of the prison regime is having bacon and eggs for breakfast?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: Clearly, the honourable member did not listen to my response.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: I did.

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: No, you did not. What we are investigating here is the behaviour of some correctional services officers, not the system.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: Aware but not alarmed?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: It is very difficult for me, as a minister, when I am briefed and I am told that an investigation is occurring and I cannot prejudice it.

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: It is going to be part of the whole investigation obviously. It is very difficult for me to give you numbers on the floor of this chamber today.

The Hon. R.D. Lawson interjecting:

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: No, I am aware of the numbers but I cannot do that, the reason being that I do not want to prejudice this investigation. I think any reasonable person would understand that, even somebody like the Hon. Robert Lawson, who has QC after his name. If somebody in the department is undertaking an investigation I cannot stand up here and say, ‘Look, he’s found out such and- such,’ or whatever. It is very difficult for me to do that.

In fact, it would be irresponsible for me to do that.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Will the minister undertake to do so when it is actually completed?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I wish they had heard the first time I spoke because I actually undertook to do just that.