The mayor of a remote crime-hit region of the Northern Territory was forced to flee the state with his family after he was filmed sitting on a 12-year-old boy.
In August last year, footage was filmed of Jeffrey McLaughlin restraining a young Aboriginal man outside his home in Tennant Creek.
Police are investigating the mayor of Barkly Regional Council after he was asked to resign by local and national child protection authorities.
McLaughlin maintained in October that his “citizen’s arrest” of the young man was legal, claiming the boy had tried to break into his home.
The mayor under fire revealed to the ABC He has since moved to a secret interstate location on Monday after outrage over the video sparked threats against his family.
Barkly Mayor Jeffrey McLaughlin was filmed sitting on top of a 12-year-old Aboriginal boy (pictured) during a “citizen’s arrest” last August.
McLaughlin (pictured with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese) has since fled the Northern Territory with his family after facing violent threats.
‘I will return to Tennant Creek once the investigation is completed. “I intend to clear my name through investigation,” she said.
The short “arrest” video shows Mr McLaughlin sitting on top of the boy while another 61-year-old man threatened him.
“I’m going to stay here as long as I have to,” McLaughlin told the 12-year-old.
‘One of you is going to be killed. I told you the other day. You are very lucky to be with me. “We don’t want to live like this anymore.”
The other man followed Mr McLaughlin’s statement by saying: “I would love to stomp on your head.”
He then raised his leg as if to kick the boy, who yelled at him to “go away.”
“Keep your fucking head down or I’ll trample you,” the man said.
If it were up to me, I wouldn’t call the police. You’re lucky it didn’t hit you in the head.
The man then made a fist with his hand before driving his boot into the boy’s head.
The second man seen in the video, wearing a high-visibility T-shirt, who threatened the boy was charged with aggravated assault in November.
At the time, McLaughlin said he did not approve of the ‘spontaneous comments and behavior of the other adult male (that) can rightly be described as inappropriate.”
“My actions were neither illegal nor inconsistent with my position as mayor of Barkly Regional Council,” he said.
“I will not be resigning from my position as mayor of Barkly Regional Council.”
McLaughlin defended his own actions by claiming that the boy had broken into his home.
“I made a citizen’s arrest of a young man who was trying to break into my family home, as I have the legal right to do,” he said in October.
“The force I used to detain the young man was entirely reasonable under the circumstances.”
The council has been suspended while an investigation into its conduct and finances is completed.
Another man is heard in the video (pictured) threatening to hit and kick the toddler.
Barkly Regional Council, based in Tennant Creek, is responsible for about 7,000 residents in an electorate almost five times the size of Tasmania.
The central region of the Northern Territory has long been plagued by an epidemic of crime, poverty, alcoholism and a high cost of living.
In 2018, the council was nominated to play a key role in distributing almost $80 million of funding to address social disadvantage.
However, the council has been plagued by mass resignations and accusations of bullying by McLaughlin and former chief executive Emma Bradbury.
Both deny any wrongdoing.
Independent researcher Ruth Morley will hand her findings to NT Local Government Minister Chansey Paech next month and she will decide whether to reinstate or dismiss Barkly Regional Council.
Justin Hankinson, the council’s former health and safety officer, expressed concern that the investigation did not consider staff complaints.
“There were many people seriously harmed by the culture that developed within the council at that time, to the point where there were people who were close to suicide,” he said.
‘I hope there is a full investigation into the behavior of both management and elected representatives in relation to what happened to the council.
“There are obviously a lot of lingering questions about how this whole situation came to be.”
McLaughlin said he will return to Tennant Creek once the investigation is complete, which he hopes will “clear” his name.
In addition to the “citizen’s arrest” investigation and controversy, McLaughlin is also fighting charges for possession, supply and cultivation of cannabis, as well as driving under the influence of cannabis.
McLaughlin also faces an investigation over allegations of intimidation by councilors and charges of possessing, supplying and cultivating cannabis.
Police stopped Mr McLaughlin for a roadside drug test in Tennant Creek in September 2022.
The test allegedly returned a positive result for cannabis use and a subsequent search of a nearby property uncovered “several cannabis plants and material”.
Jeffrey McLaughlin was elected mayor of the Barkly region in 2017.