The Victorian Ombudsman has found that the hard lockdown of nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne on July 4 was unlawful, and absolutely breached human rights laws.

Deborah Glass, the Ombudsman for Victoria, presented her report in parliament on Thursday, which stated that it would be in the best interest of the VIC Government to apologise for its “rushed lockdown”, and the effects on mental health that it would have had on tenants, who were not allowed to leave the property whatsoever.

“In my opinion, based on the evidence gathered by the investigation, the action appeared to be contrary to the law,” Glass said.

“Proper consideration of human rights before the lockdown began would have put health, not security, front and centre.”

The lockdown, which saw around 3,000 people restricted to their homes, commenced on July 4th, despite being agreed upon to begin the following day. Eight public housing towers had restrictions eased after five days, while 33 Alfred Street was in lockdown for another nine, due to a high amount of cases.

According to the full report, the nature of the hard lockdown was “not compatible with the residents’ human rights.” The main point of concern was around the right to human treatment when deprived of liberty, which Glass found was not protected.

“In a just society, human rights are not a convention to be ignored during a crisis, but a framework for how we will treat and be treated as the crisis unfolds.”

According to SBS News, tenants lodged around 150 complaints to the ombudsman around fear and distress from being under lockdown. During this time, it was also reported that a surge in calls to mental health services rose significantly.

Tenants were reportedly denied essential items such as nappies and medicine, were forbidden from getting fresh air for more than a week, and in some instances, were forced to live in small apartments that had up to eight people crammed in.

“Many residents knew nothing of the lockdown or the reason for it when large numbers of police appeared on their estate that afternoon,” Glass said.

“We heard that initially there was chaos. Some people were without food and medicines.

“At the tower at 33 Alfred Street, the focus of the investigation, residents waited more than a week to be allowed outside under supervision for fresh air.”

Image: Getty Images / Darrian Traynor