Dylan Voller's violent past detailed at Don Dale royal commission

Dylan Voller testifies at the royal commission. Photo: Supplied

Dylan Voller testifies at the royal commission. Photo: Supplied

The Indigenous teenager at the centre of the Northern Territory youth detention scandal had been expelled from primary school for punching pupils and during subsequent jail stints spat at prison staff and defecated and urinated in his cell.

Dylan Voller's tragic and chaotic life was spelled out in detail on Thursday as the NT government sought to counter his evidence at the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT.

Sonia Brownhill, SC, Solicitor-General and counsel for the NT government, questioned Mr Voller on his statements against evidence from prison guards and his school principal.

She asked him about allegations of erratic behaviour at primary school, of his failure to take the ADHD drug Ritalin, of hitting students in the playground, of often being escorted to the school "time out" room where he smashed a louvre window, defecated on the floor and tied socks around his neck.

Mr Voller told the royal commission he sometimes did not want to go to school, refused to take part in class, disobeyed teachers and was disruptive to other students.

Asked if he assaulted teachers, or spat on a teacher, Mr Voller said: "I don't remember that."

Ms Brownhill’s portrayal of Mr Voller's life in jail was a harrowing list of aberrant behaviour, futile bravado and madness.

Ms Brownhill asked him about threatening staff at the now shut Aranda House Youth Detention Centre in Alice Springs and listed incidents of him tearing off at-risk clothing (used to stop children harming themselves).

But she said Mr Voller's credibility as a witness had been questioned and he had grossly underestimated his own behaviour in detention in evidence and statements to the commission.

"You threatened to rape the children of the staff present and their grandchildren, and you specifically threatened to burn down [guard] Mr Tasker's house with his family inside, do you agree with that?" she asked.

"I don't remember," Mr Voller replied.

On a video link to the royal commission hearing in Darwin, Mr Voller often appeared not to understand what was being put to him.

He used the phrase "I don't remember" more than 25 times as Ms Brownhill ran through a lexicon of incidents and pointing out discrepancies in his statements concerning the identities of prison staff.

At several points, Mr Voller's counsel Peter O'Brien strongly objected to the questions.

"To put these allegations one after the other, when he was 14 years of age, it is totally unnecessary, it is designed to humiliate and embarrass the witness and it's not going to assist the commission in determining what happened during any of the events he complained about," Mr O'Brien said.

Footage of Mr Voller as a 17-year-old shackled to a restraining chair by his wrists, ankles and head and in a spit-hood on the ABC TV program Four Corners last July caused widespread outrage and prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to appoint a royal commission.

Earlier on Thursday Michael Hughes, the Alice Springs Correctional Centre officer who placed a spit-hood on Mr Voller, admitted there were instances when the hood was not fitted properly.

Mr O'Brien asked if he could recall the young detainee saying, "I can't breathe, I'm choking"?

Mr Hughes: "No."

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