AN independent inquiry into allegations that sexual assaults against female staff at Bathurst Jail were not investigated has come under scrutiny after claims potential witnesses are being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
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Witnesses being interviewed as part of the inquiry have contacted the Western Advocate and said they were told they must sign an NDA before a statement could be taken.
When asked to clarify this position, a spokesperson the law firm handling the independent inquiry, referred all questions to Corrective Services.
A spokesperson for Corrective Services NSW issued the following comment.
"Maintaining appropriate confidentiality is a standard requirement of investigative reviews into potential misconduct or disciplinary matters.
"This is necessary to ensure action taken as a result of the review is as effective as possible."
The independent investigation was launched by Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Kevin Corcoran earlier this year in the wake of shocking revelations that six female staff were subject to ongoing sexual acts from a senior staff member.
In February this year in Bathurst Local Court, senior correctional officer Glenn Anthony Ash, aged 51, of East Orange, pleaded guilty to a string of crimes against his colleagues, including masturbating in front of one of them and forcing her to touch his erect penis.
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Ash was convicted and placed on a 12-month community corrections order on three common assault matters.
Corrections Minister Geoff Lee subsequently ordered an independent investigation into claims of sexually inappropriate behaviour among staff at Bathurst and Kirkconnell correctional centres, including claims management failed to adequately respond.
However, victims are now concerned the NDAs will prevent the truth of what happened from ever seeing the light of day.
One of the victims, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said she was told she couldn't give her statement without signing off on the NDA.
While she was concerned, she was not surprised, she said.
"To be honest, it's no less than I expected," she said, adding she believed Corrective Services had a habit of "sweeping things under the carpet".
"They are not going to be forthcoming with what has happened," she said.
"I always maintained they would pick the eyes out of it and only let people know what they want them to know.
"They won't hand over all the findings. They will muzzle it when it comes out.
"There's no transparency. To be honest, it's what I expected.
"When they [investigators] called me, I quizzed them ... on how it works. They told me they aren't obligated to release their findings.
"Corrections are not obliged to make any comment publicly, and once we sign the NDA, we can't say anything either; it's all confidential."
She said she believed Corrective Services' announcement of an independent investigation was about its public image.
"They try and make themselves be seen as the good guys and take ownership over what happened," she said.
"But they have no intention of releasing anything. If they do, it will be the bare minimum.
"It's a PR stunt.
"They say it's independent, but Corrective Services NSW are paying for it [the inquiry].
"This is in the public interest. People need to know what goes on up there [at the jail].
"What happened is just the tip of the iceberg."
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