Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Palm Is death in custody case two years on

I can't believe it has been nearly two years since an Aboriginal man in Palm Island, Queensland, died in police custody and the Coroner's report sparked massive outrage in the Island's Aboriginal community that led to rioting. The police station and court were attacked. It was one of the stories of Australia's racism and police brutality that captured my interest when I started this blog two years ago.

The Coronial inquest into this death in custody will deliver its findings in Townsville in north Queensland today, reports ABC News Online. There is chatter about whether community anger will again flare-up over the Coroner's findings – mainly from mainstream media and Queensland government people. Yet, despite their being unconvinced at what the Coroner will find - and whether justice will be done – Palm Island's Aboriginal leaders are hosing down talk of community violence:
'I don't think that's going to be the case, community leaders have made a commitment to be here to work with police to try to control those sorts of things but we really don't think that's going to happen,' [Palm Island Council CEO Barry Moyle] said.
Considering how badly the Queensland police overeacted last time, I'm not surprised they're keen to avoid further police attacks on their community. Chloe Hooper's story 'The Tall Man' for The Monthly on the Palm Island community's wait for justice is the best I've read on the matter. I recommend it. Go to The Monthly's back issues and scroll down to Issue 11 to read Hooper's story online.

Warning: if you go to the ABC News Online story, beware that they have published a photograph of the dead man and his name, which is counter to Aboriginal protocols regarding Aboriginal people who have passed away.

Update: ABC reports that deputy Acting State Coroner Christine Clements has released her report, finding that the investigation into the death 'failed to meet death in custody guidelines', a previous 'aborted coroner's report' had not mentioned assault allegations, 'which she labelled a serious error of judgement,' and that '[the Aboriginal man] should never have been arrested in the first place'! More damningly, she has dismissed the evidence provided by a police liaison officer, and I think this is bad for the policeman who arrested the man and was present at the watchhouse where/when he died. Note: the quotes are from the ABC news item on the court proceedings, not the coroner's report. [Updated 12.15 pm, 27 September]



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