History of Prisoner Movement

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JA Report | February to July, 2012

This report is to update you with our latest news and projects. Please let us know if you can offer any feedback on any of the topics raised below.  download


The Justice Action office has been busier than ever. New team members have come aboard as current campaigns and developing issues present an ever- growing range of efforts. The photo above shows part of the growing team.

Our four Justice Reform Initiative research papers, recently launched at an international conference in Trinidad, adopt the new concept of prisoner empowerment and responsibility that propose proactive approaches to doing time. Ministers, bureaucrats and leading academics in each field of research were consulted and their feedback was incorporated into the papers. 

JA has been exposing the shocking treatment of those affected by mental health policies while held in prisons and forensic hospitals. We have produced several research papers in this area such as the Forced Medication and Patient and Prisoner Controlled Services papers. Our being involved in this area stems from our relationship with several current patients, including Saeed Dezfouli, who have articulated the need for change in these areas.

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JA Report | August 2012 to April 2013



This latest Justice Action Report includes the battle of Callan Park, the use of force in prisons, progress on the detainees publication JUST US, torture and hospital inspection, death in custody, the CJC Hypothetical, music and art. It covers August 2012 to April 2013. Download here

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JA Annual Report 2016

2016 has been yet another busy year for the Justice Action team. Click here to read a report on the work we've done, and check out some photos of the highlights below. 


Report hearing of fifth day of trial February 19, 2020

Report hearing fifth day of trial February 19, 2020

Wednesday 19th February 2020 for R v Kathlin Armstrong at the Downing Centre Local Court 5.5.

Last heard in October of 2019, Kat Armstrong’s case was recommenced today at 9:30 am and presided over by Her Honour, Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman. The defence team is Peter O’Brien and Elliot Rowe.

Turning up in support of Kat was Debbie Kilroy OAM, one of the Australia’s key leaders advocating for the protection of human rights of women and young people through decarceration. Debbie established Sisters Inside, an internationally recognized organization that provides support to women with lived prison experience. Her work with Sisters Inside was the inspiration for Kat’s vision to create the Women’s Justice Network as a resource for ex-prisoners by ex-prisoners. In breach of the WJN Constitution, no Board members of WJN had lived experience, and instead took over the organisation whilst calling the police on Kat. 

The Justice Action team was also present to support Kat. 



Inside the courtroom, Mr O’Brien resumed cross-examination of Vice President of WJN, Nicki Petrou. The key issue raised by Mr O’Brien concerned the absence of payment to Kat undertaking additional roles as well as her role as CEO of WJN. One such example was Kat taking over as Administrator and Bookkeeper from June 2014 to August 2016, a previous role held by Helen Duwett. Although Helen was paid as a previous employee, Kat was not paid for doing the same duties.

Mr O’Brien claimed that Kat had to be eventually paid when WJN had sufficient funds. Ms Petrou objected, as the minutes did not make explicit whether she should be paid, or not paid for these extra roles. She did however mention that she was paid for her duties as a CEO for a short period.

Then evidence arose regarding the payment of the “Vodafone Grant” received by Kat in May 2013, to be ­­paid to her for working at a charity for a year. The Vodafone Grant was worth $85,000 but $44,000 was not paid to her. Mr O’Brien asserted that since the money was not set aside specifically to pay Ms Armstrong, it was misused as funds for payment to other employees.

After a short break, further evidence arose as minutes from a WJN executive meeting from July 2015 showed Kat undertook a variety of roles such as a figurehead, consultant etc; but again never received any remuneration for those roles. Mr O’Brien also brought up the ‘us and them’ mentality at WJN between the women from professional backgrounds and the women with lived experience. Petrou disagreed with this statement and said there was a disagreement between Lana Sandas (employed by SERCO) and Kat.

Helen Dunstan, Secretary of the Board in 2016, was next called upon as a witness by the prosecution. She made a statement regarding Kat’s mindset during the 2017 period. She also stated that she wasn’t aware of any outstanding payments owed to Kat, Breakout or any other printing company.

The day ended with Magistrate Huntsman’s first ruling in favour of Kat. The prosecution sought leave to bring in a witness who was not disclosed to the defence prior to the trial. The magistrate took into account legislation such as the Criminal Procedures Act and several cases. Given that the defence had prepared the case based on the evidence already served, Magistrate Huntsman emphasized the need to act in the interest of justice and procedural fairness, ultimately ruling against the prosecution.

The defence case begins tomorrow with Kat Armstrong on the stand.


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Prisoner's Voices

History is the story and product of human experiences, and can provide valuable perspectives into people and events, which can then be recorded and preserved for future generations. Through this process, we can build relationships with prisoners and the general communities by humanising and challenging prevailing stereotypical constructions of prisoners and their families, prison life and the prison community generally. These Prisoner's Voices also provide a written history of prisoners and the prisoner movement framed within the development of Australian history, culture and values.


Chris Binse

John Killick

Damien Linnane

John Thornton


John Thornton

above the law

In 1969, John Thornton, age 22, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on armed hold-ups of two banks. Following his incarceration, Thornton released a book concerned with the abuse of authority within the police force, crimes committed by the Government and conspiracies within the judiciary. Thornton frames this book as an exposé on the deficits within the justice system that constantly thwart basic human rights and prisoner rights.

Justice Action conducted an interview to discuss the interactions Mr. Thornton has had with the justice system. To view, Click Here. 

John’s thoughts on what happened whilst waiting for his reserved decision

In the following recount, Thornton reflects upon the abuse he suffered at the hands of police personnel that culminated in unjustified charges of drug supply and resistance to arrest.

Click here.

John’s Thoughts during his Court Cases

In the following recount, John explains the emotional turmoil and frustration he felt during his court cases with an acute focus on the stigmatisation of convicted, wrongly or not, individuals by the general public and reporters.

Click here.

John Thornton on his work

The publication of the “Above The Law” tells a nonfiction story that belongs in Australian history! The book starts with a warning and ends with the evidence. I took on a one-man war that began with The Nagle Royal Commission into the torture system at the Grafton goal trac section. This war drove thousands of prisoners insane who upon their release committed crime such as murder. Names such as Johnny Steward, Jimmy Finch, Archie McCavity, Jimmy Thornton and Neddy Smith.

Right now I find myself in another one-man war with the Justice System! After being assaulted, bashed and kicked by four police officers and first taken to Maitland Hospital where I complained “I’m not the accused here, I’m the victim. I have been bashed and kicked by police!” I had 28 broken bones and went into a coma for months on life support. I had doctors telling my family that I was gone and they asked on two occasions“Turn off the life support, his body functions are gone!” Waking up to a nightmare, false evidence! False charges! Conspiracy! Cover Up! In leg irons.

I invite everybody to share my story and show support on my Facebook page by liking my page and sending a friend request. Follow the links to buy the “Above the Law” book which is available in paperback and on eBook and support me in my present fight for justice to keep up to date on the progression of my case and prove “I am the victim!” I have already proved my innocence!

Barrister and my friend Terry Healy said to me “I am 75 years old I have been offered jobs on the bench and the reason I didn’t take up the bench is because I know I would have to decide on cases such as yours and be forced to decide the wrong way! I’m not going to let them get away with this!”              

Don’t you!



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