UPDATE TODAY 18/04/12
Victoria failed in its duty to protect the safety of jailed underworld kingpin Carl Williams, the Ombudsman has said.
In a report tabled in State Parliament this morning, Ombudsman George Brouwer found that Williams was placed in the high-security Acacia unit with Matthew Johnson despite significant risks having been identified.
Acting Corrections Commissioner Rod Wise wrote to Justice Department secretary Penny Armytage in January 2009, identifying risks to the safety of Williams.
“There is little doubt that Johnson is capable of causing Williams harm if he were to find out the true nature of Williams’ cooperation with police,” Mr Wise wrote.
Despite the risks, Mr Wise and Ms Armytage supported the placement of Johnson with Williams.
They both told the Ombudsman that Victoria Police support for this move was an important factor in their decision-making.
Johnson formally requested to be transferred to Williams’ unit in December 2008, and Williams had also made the request.
In January 2010, Victoria Police also told Corrections of a dangerous rift between the underworld associates, warning Williams was one of two persons who were at risk of being murdered at Barwon Prison.
Fearing for his safety after the death threat, authorities moved Williams out of the Acacia unit for eight days, but again placed him with the other inmates after the threat was not substantiated.
Experienced prison officers also admitted they had concerns over the placement of Williams and Johnson together well before the murder. However, action was not taken.
A supervisor with the prison’s intelligence unit blamed Corrections Victoria as well as Williams for the death, stating the high-profile inmate had no ”prison sense” and he could not understand how Corrections Victoria had let him be placed with a ”prison thug” like Johnson.
”How they ever let it happen I will not know,” the intelligence officer said.
”Basically … he was doomed.
”He appointed his own assassin are the words I have used, and I stick by it.”
Another prison officer described Johnson as a ”self-proclaimed leader of the prison gang”.
”I suppose Carl went down the path … I probably started to feel a little uneasy how the relationship would end,” the prison officer told the Ombudsman.
Another senior prison official admitted they did not take any action on concerns for Williams’ safety because they were not supported by evidence, and still believed there were not the grounds to have justified action prior to the attack.
Ombudsman George Brouwer found Corrections Victoria had enough intelligence before Williams’ murder that it should have had serious concerns for his safety, but it failed to consider the warnings or reassess the underworld figure’s placement in the Acacia unit.
A damning email sent by ‘Prison officer A’ in March 14, 2009, to senior prison staff revealed that other prisoners were aware that Williams was co-operating with police.
”These views, no matter how true or unfounded, may be the cause for concern to the safety of prisoner Williams and may be the cause of some sort of attempt to harm prisoner Williams or those around him,” the email states.
Although other officers agreed there was a safety threat, some stated they did not receive the message and no action was taken.
A review of letters written by Johnson after the murder revealed warnings about his placement with Williams, however the revelations were not recorded in the prison’s security checks until after the death.
In one letter to his cousin on April 5, 2010 Johnson warned of forthcoming media attention but said ”just don’t want you to worry … I’ll be sweet so don’t stress.”
A week later he wrote to another prisoner stating that Williams was ”not right in the head” and had gone insane.
The day before he beat Williams to death Johnson wrote to another prisoner that he expected to be kept in prison for a lot longer than previously sentenced; ”as for myself, I think that now I’ll have to hang around for a while longer. doesn’t matter, but coz (sic) I love this s–t,” Johnson wrote.
”I am the true general so I must keep things in good order.”
But operations manager of the prison intelligence unit Peter Hutchinson said he did not believe the details in Johnson’s letter were enough to justify removing Williams from the Acacia unit, even though his unit thought the expected ”media attention” related to Williams.
Williams was struck on the head several times with a metal object by Johnson on April 19, 2010, and dies of his injuries.
Corrections Victoria has been told to improve CCTV systems, retraining of staff, a review of procedures and other reforms.
Carl Williams’ father George did not want to comment when shown the report by the Herald Sun this morning.
“No one has told me nothing about it in two years,” Mr Williams said.
“They say it’s an ongoing investigation. How ongoing is it?”
Well no real surprises here that he got life, he knew the score and realised his future was always going to be in jail (if not for all the other crimes he would have committed if released) So he has fulfilled his self-confessed prophecy and its HOME SWEET HOME for Johnson. Maybe the authorities will choose his next cell mates a bit more wisely, if he gets any at all…And he will be doing it tough, as he won’t have the generous little kick of a couple hundred a month that Carl Williams old man, George was sending him prior to killing his son anymore…..
Listen to the Judge sentence this low life here… http://mp3.news.com.au/hwt/Matthew_Johnson_sentence_excerpt_8dec11.mp3
Matthew Charles Johnson, 38, must serve at least 32 years for what Justice Lex Lasry described as “an appalling murder”.
Williams was bashed to death as he sat reading a newspaper in a Barwon Prison unit in April last year.
Johnson’s claim of self-defence was rejected by a Supreme Court jury and today Justice Lasry said it was a “fanciful” defence.
He said Johnson killed Williams because the underworld figure was helping police over the murders of police informer Terence Hodson and his wife Christine.
The judge said Johnson was the “General” of a prison gang called the Prisoners of War who hated anyone assisting police – and he could not be seen to condone what his cellmate Williams was doing.
Justice Lasry said Johnson seemed to think he had a “special entitlement to kill” and Williams had died as a result of a “meaningless prison code”.
He also hit out at prison authorities for housing Williams with Johnson, who has more than 150 convictions and a known hatred of criminals who assist police.
“How the prison authorities allowed that to happen is beyond me,” he said.
“On any view you were a threat to his welfare”.
Williams’s father George, ex-wife Roberta and her children were in court for the sentencing.