7 Mar 2024

Concern in Western Australia after video of children cable-tied

6:56 am on 7 March 2024
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia - 29th October 2019 : View of the australian Police sign against a blue sky located outside a police station in Greenslopes, Brisbane, Australia

Photo: 123RF

By Esse Deves, Gareth McKnight, and Ted O'Connor, ABC Kimberley

Western Australia Premier Roger Cook has described vision showing children cable tied together in the state's north as "disturbing" and "confronting" , with the state's Commissioner for Children and Young People saying she was "appalled" after viewing it.

Vision emerged on Tuesday of two young children being restrained and crying, their wrists tied, as a man appeared to be standing watch.

The premier said the video "raises very strong emotions" and "anyone that saw that video would have found it confronting, would have found it disturbing".

WA Police said officers attended a property at the Broome suburb of Cable Beach on Tuesday after receiving a call at around 1.35pm about children swimming in the backyard of a vacant property.

When they arrived, officers say they found a six-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy linked together at their wrists by black ties.

Police say an eight-year-old boy was also restrained, but left the scene before officers arrived.

St John Ambulance attended to assess the children.

A 45-year-old man has since been charged with three counts of aggravated assault and he will face Broome Magistrates Court on March 25.

Police say the man had called police to say he had apprehended three children in the backyard before officers arrived.

Commissioner 'appalled'

Commissioner for Children and Young People Jacqueline McGowan-Jones said on Wednesday she was "appalled" after seeing the footage.

"It would appear these are very young and small children. They appear to be quite frightened in the circumstances. He is quite a large man. And they appear to be very nervous," she told ABC Radio Perth.

McGowan-Jones said those moving to judge the actions of the children should be cautious given their young age.

"These children are only six and seven. They don't have the neurodevelopment to understand cause and effect and consequences and actions. And that is legally known," she said.

She called for support to be provided to their family.

Cook said it was important to contact police in "a situation where you think a crime is taking place".

"I don't think people should put themselves in harm's way," he said, adding that police had acted quickly.

"Let's let the justice system take place."

Force 'disproportionate': police

WA Police Acting Assistant Commissioner for Regional WA Rod Wilde said it would be alleged the use of force against the children was not appropriate.

"There is a power under that [Criminal Investigations Act] to make a citizen's arrest where people can be restrained. There's some conditions around that … the police have to be advised forthwith and attend and take over," he said.

"Whatever force you apply to arrest someone needs to be reasonable, given the age of the person involved, the vulnerability, and all of those things that be taken into account by the court.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Wilde said police were speaking with the children's parents to investigate the allegations of trespass and property damage.

"Children under 10 are not going to be criminally responsible," he said.

"We're engaging with the children's parents … They're certainly keen for the court process to run its course."

Acting Assistant Commissioner Wilde called for calm in the wake of the alleged incident.

"There's been a lot of publicity around this matter, but we certainly want some calmness in the town," he said.

"People [are] to report matters to the police. There's a lot of police officers that are in Broome, it's a beautiful place and we want it to stay that way."

Native title group Nyamba Buru Yawuru's chief operating officer Taliah Payne called for Broome's residents and service providers to show support for the children involved and their families.

"Yawuru and our community are really concerned for these children," she said.

The traditional owner said while anger over the video was understandable, she urged residents to take positive steps to improve their community.

"Our hope for the future is that we as a community come together and make sure Broome is a safe place for all of our children," she said.

The 45-year-old man is due to face court at a later date.

- This story was first published by the ABC