Underbelly: articles

Teenage inmates shown banned TV show Underbelly

BANNED gangland TV drama Underbelly has been shown to teenage inmates in Victoria's biggest youth prison.

A state government inquiry has been launched into the screening of the graphic show, based on Melbourne's bloody gangland wars.

It is believed a staff member at the Melbourne Juvenile Justice Centre is suspected of smuggling the pirated DVD into the Parkville prison. Inmates in the remand section of the complex watched up to 10 episodes last weekend.

About 15 teenage detainees watched the series in a communal television room.

The relative of one of the convicted killers depicted in Underbelly is believed to have been one them.

Gangland killings, bashings, drug dealing and use, and explicit sex scenes are prominent in the $13 million series.

A worker who helps troubled young teenagers said viewing such a program had the potential to be damaging.

"These kids look up to these people. They think they're absolute heroes," the worker said.

Supreme Court Justice Betty King banned the screening of Underbelly in Victoria in February.

The order was initially imposed to protect the trial of gangland killer Ange Goussis over the murder of crime patriarch Lewis Moran. Although Goussis was convicted last month, the ban still stood.

Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Rapke warned last month of the potential consequences if Justice King's edict was breached.

"I will not hesitate to take contempt of court proceedings against any person or organisation that deliberately publishes Underbelly or any part of it," Mr Rapke said.

Yesterday, the Office of Public Prosecutions did not respond to questions from the Herald Sun.

There have been no charges yet for breaches, but the public showing at the Parkville prison, and the vulnerable nature of its audience, are likely to be viewed dimly by authorities.

It is believed staff had been warned by management this year that they should not take illegally produced DVDs into the centre. Another warning was issued this week by a senior manager after the Underbelly screening.

A Department of Human Services spokesman said an investigation was under way.

"Showing such a program is not appropriate," he said.

"These allegations are being treated as very serious and, if proven, would constitute a breach of discipline.

"The department takes very seriously its responsibility to maintain a custodial environment that is conductive to the rehabilitation of young offenders."

Mark Buttler
June 21, 2008
Herald Sun