The Northern Territory (NT) Government is contesting a court's order to pay nearly $1 million in compensation to former youth detention inmates who were gassed. 

The appeal centres on the recent NT Supreme Court ruling, which applied a 2020 High Court decision stating that the use of tear gas, classified as a prohibited weapon, was illegal.

According to court documents, the four young detainees, who were not involved in the initial incident, were subjected to rough handling after being exposed to tear gas. 

They were handcuffed, forced to lie face-down on a basketball court, and sprayed with a high-pressure hose.

Justice Jenny Blokland, in awarding damages, criticised the NT Government for failing to acknowledge the incident's unlawfulness or its violation of the Weapons Control Act. She noted the absence of an apology from the government.

The judge found that the plaintiffs were mostly bystanders and condemned the reckless disregard for their rights and well-being. 

She accused the NT Government of allowing an environment where senior officers were uninformed about their powers when dealing with vulnerable individuals.

The NT Government's appeal, filed on September 11 by solicitor Maria Pikoulos, argues against the imposition of exemplary damages, which serve as punishment and a deterrent.

The government was ordered to pay Josiah Binsaris, Keiran Webster, Ethan Austral and Leroy O'Shea a share of $960,000 in damages following a legal battle that spanned almost a decade and led to a royal commission.

The NT Government's lawyers contend that the officers responsible for the tear gas deployment did not knowingly commit wrongdoing and did not show contempt for the detainees' rights. 

They also dispute the court's decision to award exemplary damages, citing the government's alleged role in creating an environment where officers were uncertain about their powers.

Responding to inquiries about the appeal, NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles declined to comment on specifics due to the ongoing legal process. 

However, she pointed out that the incident occurred during the tenure of the Country Liberal Party opposition and emphasised ongoing efforts to reform the system.