Sunday, March 14, 2010

12th March 2010 Townsville District Court - Day 5

Palm Island – 2nd Inquest re the death of Cameron Doomadgee, referred to as Mulrunji at his family’s request

12th March 2010 Townsville District Court -  Day 5
These are my impressions from talking with various community members and sitting, listening and watching, in the Court room – I cannot always catch what is said.

Mr Boe resumed interviewing Sn Sgt Hurley. He focussed on the issue of Mulrunji’s six distinct calls from the cells, over about 30 secs. Hurley insisted that he had heard nothing, even though the calls are recorded on the audio tape.  Hurley also stated that he normally hears calls from the cells, and that he responds to them. Hurley stated that, if he had heard Mulrunji or Nugent call out, he would have responded.
Mr Boe asked about the events of 20th November. Was it possible that Hurley had overheard or seen the statements and re-enactments being doing that morning. Hurley said that the only memory he has of that day is of sitting in his office and of doing the re-enactment.
Hurley said that if he had known the medical evidence he would  have left some room for an accidental injury in his account.

Note: Hurley said virtually the same thing when Mr Boe brought up the ‘Barbara Pilot Incident’ . Hurley denied running over her foot – but the medical evidence showed that the foot had been run over. so twice Hurley said that if he had known the medical evidence he ‘would have left some room for an accidental injury in his account...’

Mr Boe also asked about the only two items added into the re-enactment (see Mr Devlin’s questions the day before) could Hurley have been told of, or overheard Roy Bramwell’s evidence. Hurley absolutely denied it.
Mr Boe  said Detective Sgt Robinson, asked Hurley only two questions during the interview, 1) did Hurley get any injuries?, No   2) did you fall on top of him? No, I landed to the side of him, on the lino
Mr Boe suggested that the re-enactment left no opportunity for Hurley to have accidentally applied force. Hurley did not answer.

Mr Boe also asked about the relationship of Hurley and D Sgt Robinson. As colleagues and the two longest serving, senior officers, they saw each other regularly and could be called friends. Robinson had been told to investigate several complaints against Hurley in the past and had suggested to senior officers that this was inappropriate giving their relationship. Hurley had also raised the issue. Senior officers in Townsville over-ruled these concerns. They also included Robinson in the Investigating Team after Mulrunji’s death.

Hurley agreed that the Death in Custody should have been treated as a crime scene and that the total area from the police wagon up to and including the cell should have been secured. He said he had only thought of the cell as being the crime scene.

Mr Boe asked Hurley if he had anything to say to the family.  Hurley offered his sincere sympathy and sorrow for the angst they have suffered.
Mr Boe asked if Hurley regretted anything. Hurley said there was no use regretting things done in the past. He has arrested people for similar offences.
This was a pretty provocative response. Coroner Clements specifically stated that Mulrunji should not have been arrested – the offence could have been dealt with without arrest. From the Deaths in Custody Recommendations onward, there has been a focus on minimising arrests. My understanding is that arrest is meant to be virtually a ‘last resort’. Sn Sgt Hurley does not seem to have accepted the Qld Police policy on this. Perhaps this issue needs to be looked at further.
Queensland Government policy is to reduce the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The question of why people are arrested might be a great place to focus on.

Mr Davis, for Attorney General, started by going over some facts. Hurley has been acquitted by a Jury of manslaughter. When giving evidence at the trial, Hurley never contested the medical evidence. Hurley agreed.

Mr Davis went through Hurley’s re-enactment . On the one hand Hurley says he has no memory of what happened between going through the door into the police station. On the other hand, he took part in a re-enactment in which he clearly qualifies areas or actions about which he is unsure. So it can be assumed that the things he does not qualify are things he does remember.
The following are not exact words, but as close as I could get them. Tone is reasonably accurate.
Hurley: the re-enactment is not a true record as I obviously somewhere had contact with Mulrunji.
Mr Davis: That is based on the assumption that you are telling the truth and you did not apply force after the force.
Mr Davis:  You have accepted that you must have accidentally fallen on Mulrunji with such force to cleave his liver.  
Hurley: Some part of my person must have come into contact with Mulrunji, Yes.
Mr Davis: Contact quite violently, so violently that his liver has been split. So you cannot give evidence that you came into contact with Mulrunji because you can’t remember.
So you came into contact with Mulrunji with such violence that his liver was pushed against his backbone and  almost cleaved in two and you missed this. You get up actually believing that you never came into contact with Mulrunji at all.
Sn Sgt Hurley: Yes
Mr Devlin, Counsel Assisting
Summing up Sn Sgt Hurley was the only person in physical contact with Mulrunji, (except for Sgt Leafe helping to drag him into the cell.
Hurley did not see any sign of injury on Mulrunji when he arrested him. Hurley did not hit or punch him. 
Medical evidence about Mulrunji includes damage to his right eye, cheek and jaw, four fractured ribs, liver cleaved in half and portal vein ruptured.
Hurley cannot explain the injuries. He denies Roy Bramwell’s evidence of seeing what appear to be three punches. He denies responsibility for the death of Mulrunji.
Hurley: I accept the medical evidence. I accept that no-one else was in a position to inflict these injuries.
Mr Kent, for Attorney General  cross-examining Police Liaison Officer (PLO) Bengaroo PLO  Bengaroo had difficulty in following the questions put to him. He was obviously extremely nervous and when asked a question, often replied on a different topic.
Bengaroo  was asked to listen to a recording of his evidence on 20th November as to what had happened.  Part of it included ‘Chris fell on him, Chris fell on him, I think he flopped to the floor...  Chris was struggling to pick him up ‘
Mr Kent then asked Bengaroo about this evidence. In particular he asked about Bengaroo’s comment that he did not want to look at what was happening in case he might be blamed.
Mr Kent; Who would blame you?  Bengaroo: the family and others
Mr Kent: What for? Bengaroo: it was because of me he was arrested...
Mr Kent  asked if Bengaroo was concerned that Mulrunji in the police station, Bengaroo: No.
Mr  Kent, were you concerned that he was active and struggling then suddenly inactive when being dragged down the corridor? Bengaroo: No. He was struggling to get up.
Mr Davis, Have you eve said that before?  Bengaroo, No
Mr Davis, . Bengaroo had known about the medical evidence since 26th November. He was interviewed nearly three weeks later by the CMC, 8th December 04. Had he thought, during that time about how Mulrunji had died? 
Bengaroo: No, he didn’t think about it. The CMC had asked him, did Hurley fall same time as Mulrunji? Bengaroo: Same as Mulrunji.
Mr Kent, was Hurley any time on top of Mulrunji, Bengaroo: No
Mr Kent, Did Hurley assault Mulrunji after the fall
Bengaroo: No, I can’t recall    No, I just seen Hurley drag him to the cells.
Mr Kent, The first time you mentioned that they had tripped on the step was on 3rd August before Coroner Christine Clements. ......I’m not clear what Bengaroo answered.
Mr Kent, before the trial of Sn Sgt Hurley for manslaughter you gave a statement which you signed.  Bengaroo: Yes.
Mr Kent, Are you really not sure what happened. Bengaroo: No, I am sure
Mr Kent, Nothing you saw could possibly explain those injuries.  Bengaroo: No, they couldn’t.
Mr Zillman, for Sn Sgt Hurley, You did not see Hurley injure, strike, harm Mulrunji.
Bengaroo: No, I didn’t.
Mr Boe for the Doomadgee family, Did you ever think you had done anything wrong?  Bengaroo: No I didn’t
Mr Boe, Why did you organise a lawyer.
Bengaroo: I didn’t. The Union organised it.
Mr Boe, Why were you nervous about the community reactions?
Bengarooo: Many times the community harassed him, when they thought that the police had treated them badly. Community members often swore at Bengaroo.
Mr Devlin stated that the evidence is that Bengaroo was absent from the police station for about 20 minutes before 11:00am as he went to the bank for money for a ferry fare for ? his fiancee, I think.
Bengaroo was unable to say exactly when he was away between 10:00 and 11:00 am on the morning of Friday 19th November 2004, the day and time when Mulrunji was brought to the police station, and died there.
Mr Devlin informed the Coroner and Court that there were 3? sworn, written statements from police officers all saying that there was no mirror in the corner – that is the one referred to by Roy Bramwell and Palm Island community members.   I did not get the exact details but I am fairly sure that it was all police evidence stating there was no mirror.
Mr Devlin  said he had received information from Detective Sgt Darren Robinson ‘s lawyer with an opinion from his doctor, that appearance at the Court would be deleterious for Robinson’s health. Mr Devlin suggested that there were ample written statements from Detective Sgt Robinson and that, subject of course, to the Coroner, Mr Hine’s, decision, it was not really necessary to have Sgt Robinson appear in Court. 
The Coronor so ruled.

I was one of many who were very disappointed. I saw Robinson apearing as a witness during the inquest in March 06, and then again in March 07, during the trial of William Blackman, Dwayne Blanket, John Clumpoint and Lance Poynter. They were charged with a serious crime: rioting to cause destruction and were acquitted.
I was looking forward to seeing Robinson cross-examined by Mr Devlin and Mr Davis. Many Palm community members were also very disappointed.
Mr Zillman for Sn Sgt Hurley called Mr Glen Cranny, Gilshennan and Luton, for cross-examination. They agreed with Mr Cranny is a partner in Gilshennan and Luton, that he was retained by the Police Union to act for Sn Sgt Hurley and that he was and is, Mr Zillman’s instructing solicitor. I hope got these formal relationships reasonably correct.They are gone through very quickly between people who know each other and know all the details. It is hard for a lay person sitting in the back of the court to pick it all up.

Mr Cranny agreed that he represented Sn Sgt Hurley, Sgt Leafe, Constable ?Tongs, Constable Steadman and PLO Bengaroo.  He spoke to each person, on their own, and got their version of events.
Mr Zillman asked Cranny about conflicts of interest. Cranny agreed that it is essential to avoid conflict of interest. He will only represent multiple clients if their versions agree as to what happened.
If their versions disagree, then they need to have different lawyers.
Cranny acted as lawyer for all five men until September 2006 when Coroner Clements report was published.  After that he continued to act for Hurley and the Police Union in-house solicitors acted for Leafe and Steadman. ? I don’t remember any mention of PLO Bengaroo.
Mr Cranny said that when Sgt Hurley was charged, the Police Union solicitors advised Leafe and Steadman not to co-operate with the Crown.
Cranny disagreed with this policy and told the Union solicitors so. He thought that it was in Hurley’s interests for Leafe and Steadman to cooperate with the Crown.
This is an example of why different representation might be needed. Was it in Leafe’s and Steadman’s interests to co-operate with the Crown?
There is of course, the question about why police officers, who are sworn to uphold the law could ever refuse to cooperate with the Crown. In fact Steadman stated that this was the first time in his career that he had refused to cooperate with a prosecution until ordered by the Commissioner to do so.
Mr Davis, for the Attorney General asked the Coroner if the non-publication order re a certain matter which was discussed in court yesterday, was still in place.
Mr Devlin confirmed exactly what was referred to. (I can’t tell you!)
Mr Zillman said that only minuted-cross examination was available and that it would be unjust to lift the non-publication order.
The Coroner said that he would leave it in place whilst he considered the matter. At least that is what I think he said. The Coroner does not speak into the mike and has a soft voice so it is hard to hear what he says..

I passed a note up to the Court asking them to make clear what the non-publication order applies to and what the effect is. After all, we have heard what-ever it was discussed and it needs to be made clear to us, in the public gallery, what we are not to do.
Mr Devlin then referred to the matter in question and told us that we are not to speak about it to anyone, nor to write about it whilst the order is in place.

ABC Journalist Jeff Waters, wrote an excellent book, Gone for a Song, which refers to the non-publication orders in great detail.
He has also written last Tuesday about this whole saga and has raised important issues.
see - 39k - [ html ] - 9 Mar 2010   -

There was a considerable amount of difficult to hear discussion amongst the lawyers and the Coroner about submissions and dates.  I gathered that the parties represented now put in written submissions to the Coroner and have a certain sequence to follow, first Mr Devlin, then Mr Boe and lastly Mr Zillman (not sure about the others). Key dates seemed to be ist April and 13 April. 
There was also talk about Oral submissions.
I will try to find out if members of the public, interested parties such as social justice groups can put in submissions and on what basis and by when.
This will be in my next blog which I hope to get out by Wednesday 17th March.

I hope also to have some general overview of what transpired and what seem to be key points from this weeks cross-examination but you will have your own views and it would be interesting to read them.


1 comment:

Fordyce said...

I have just come across your notes - what a great job you are doing. It is so hard to find much detail in the media. I have recently written to the relevant Ministers (Police, Justice, AG, etc) expressing concern that we appear to be headed to a Police run state (if we are not already there) where they (the Police) make the rules. You mention putting out more info on March 17 re actions that social justice groups, etc might take. As chair of our St Williams, Grovely SJG I am interested in what we could do.