Sunday, May 30, 2010

Police Officers must be held accountable for their actions: charges must be laid after the findings of Mulrunji Inquest 14 May 2010

Monique’s suggestions after reading Coroner Brian Hine’s Findings:

That appropriate charges and disciplinary action be taken against Inspector Hurley
· for his arrest of Mulrunji,
· for his assault on Mulrunji in the police station corridor, when Mulrunji was lying on the floor
· for failure to take proper care of Mulrunji when he went limp and before he dragged Mulrunji into the cell
· for his inhumanity in not responding to Mulrunji's cries of pain (clearly audible on the tape played on 11/12 March 2010 hearings)
· for his ‘lies’ as a witness in the coronial inquiry hearings

That appropriate charges be laid against all the police officers
who were involved in the ‘lack of transparency, independence and thoroughness of the investigations after the deaths in custody’.

That Commissioner Atkinson apologise to Tracey Twaddle, the Doomadgee family, the people of Palm Island and the Aboriginal Community throughout Australia, for not having acted swiftly to ensure a prompt, transparent and just inquiry into the death of Mulrunji in police custody.

The Commissioner also apologise for his repeated support of Hurley, even after it was clear that Hurley had certainly acted inappropriately and negligently, and possibly committed perjury.

If the Commissioner feels unable to act in this way, he should be asked to resign.

The Premier and Attorney General must have urgent talks with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and relevant service organisations to discuss how to ensure that there are no more deaths in custody – shockingly there have been several more recently. If there are serious incidents involving police there must be a swift, transparent and just inquiry and disciplinary action taken against any people, regardless of their status, who are found to be at fault.


May 14 2010 Coroner Brian Hine’s Findings (which include undisputed matter from previous hearings in 2005 and 2006) Page & section numbers in italics

1. Mr Doomadgee (Mulrunji) should not have been arrested on 19th November 2004
Hurley arrested Mulrunji which goes against the Recommendations of the Deaths in Custody and also against laws such as the Minor Offences Act (not sure of correct name). The use of arrest as a last resort is often stated to be the correct procedure in any forum on how to reduce the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

I do not remember seeing much discussion of any propensity to over-use arrest powers but I think it a real concern that Hurley, who has now been promoted to Inspector, said in the Coroner’s Court, under oath 12th May 2010
‘I do not regret anything. It is no use having regrets. I have arrested other people for the same kind of offence.’
These are the words I heard Hurley say in the court that day and the strong implication was that he will continue to arrest people for the same kind of offence.

That is, Hurley is prepared to go on arresting people for offences which clearly do not justify being arrested – this is particularly likely to lead to people protesting their innocence; then to the escalation of verbal and physical violence. The police officer will be in a position to say that he has been assaulted but the person being arrested will find it hard to have his side of the story heard.

2. That Hurley has a propensity to react physically
As a result of the death of Mulrunji, subsequent to his arrest by Hurley
· it is on public record that hours of recorded interviews with Hurley exist, which the Police Commissioner fought in court to have suppressed, and which I think it is fair to conclude, contain material which is negative about Hurley and possibly about others too
· four incidents on Palm Island which were discussed in the 2006 inquest hearings,
· plus the Ian Conway Incident, suppressed by Coroner Hine on 12 March 2010, but now made public in the findings

P 67 183. As a result, there is uncontested evidence before the Court of previous instances during the two years Sn Sgt Hurley was stationed on Palm Island in which he accepted in evidence that he responded physically when he was confronted physically or with verbal disrespect. Hines Findings May 14, 2010

Such a propensity was likely to cause a significant number of incidents which would almost certainly lead to charges of assault, not against Hurley but against the person who had treated him with disrespect.

On November 19th 04, it lead to Mulrunji , being arrested and forcibly placed in a police wagon, forcibly removed from it and, after Doomadgee had punched Hurley, Hurley punched Mulrunji as he was lying on the ground but these injuries did not cause his death.

p73 202. There were subcutaneous bruises and injuries to the area above Mulrunji’s right eye, forehead and back of the neck, left index finger knuckle, right little finger, bruising around the rib fractures and the right side of the jaw. Although the injuries to the face were consistent both with contact during a fall or during an assault, they could not have occurred at the same time as a fall, if the fall had caused the fatal injuries. These are unexplained signs of violence, with Hurley being the only possible perpetrator. Hines Findings May 14, 2010

However, these injuries are not the cause of death.
P 37 107. The DSC found 35: Both autopsies concluded that the cause of death was intra-abdominal haemorrhage, due to the ruptured liver and portal vein.
The consensus of medical opinion was that severe compressive force applied to the upper abdomen, or possibly the lower chest, or both together, was required to have caused this injury. Hines Findings May 14, 2010

2. That it is now impossible to establish whether Mulrunji’s death from strong force applied in his upper abdomen was caused deliberately or accidently by Hurley.

Police officers present at the police station during the vital 30 minutes discussed what they would say.

P 122 334 ...fact that the fact finding process has been substantially compromised and rendered more difficult by the unsatisfactory state of the investigation which was conducted into the death of Mulrunji Hines Findings May 14, 2010

P122 335. There has been extensive evidence about, and much has been said of, the flaws of the QPS investigation into this death, in terms of transparency, independence and thoroughness. Hines Findings May 14, 2010

3. That police culture results in loyalty to fellow police officers above their duty to the Crown and to the public.

P 130 341
Both police officers (Sgt Leafe and Constable Steadman)conceded that this was the first and only time they had assisted the defence, and that it had occurred because Mr Hurley was a police officer. Hines Findings May 14, 2010

Hurley’s friend, D Sgt Robinson believed that Hurley told him the truth about Barbara Pilot.
p130 from 340 His (D Sgt Robinson)"investigation" into the Barbara Pilot incident was superficial, biased, and misleading. His conclusion that the complaint was "fictitious"197 (ie. imaginary: not real.198) was dishonest, and flew in the face of the objective evidence.


There are too many tragedies flowing from the arrest and death in custody of Mr Doomadgee - his family have asked that he be known as Mulrunji until they feel it is the right time to resume his  full name.
  • the death of a fit man in his mid-thirties, his life cut-off suddenly and brutally
  • the loss of the son, husband, brother,father, community member of Palm Island 
  • the grief and trauma the sudden, unexplained death caused his family, the Palm Island community and the whole linked Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community
  • the angry and quite physical reaction of Palm Island community members to the bald statement of the autopsy results - with no support offered to the family, the council and the community
  • the panic by the police, the still unexplained fire which burnt the police station and also the fire in Hurley's quarters -which lead the illegal declaration of a state of emergency and the arrival of SERT troops on the island 
  • the freezing of any but police movements to the island so that there was no milk, bread and other necessities available to the 3000 Palm residents
  • the storming of private houses, in the early morning by balaclava hooded, non-identifiable police officers armed with tasers and guns who held guns to the heads of terrified residents, including in the front of their children
  • Police officers apparently had 'lists' of people they were looking for - some of whom could not possibly have been involved as they were in prison on the mainland
  • the subsequent charging of about 30 people and the very heavy bail conditions and then sentences imposed 
  • the suicide of Mulrunji's teenage son , despairing of obtaining any justice for his father
  • the trial, after three years' stressful waiting of four men who had dared to plead 'not guilty' to charges of inciting and abetting the alleged 'riot' and their eventual acquittal.
  • The suicide of Mr Nugent, in mysterious circumstances, one of the witnesses of the events in the police station on 19th November 2004
  • The jailing of Lex Wotton in spite of evidence from some Police that he had done a great deal to quieten the crowd and to help to evacuate police if that was what they wanted.
  • the international damage to the reputation of Australia flowing from is seen as a gross miscarriage of justice after the inquiries, inquests and trials coming after Mulrunji's death.
Until there is a real change of heart, a real change of leadership and a real comittment to stamp out racism and unacceptable behaviour throughout the police force these incidents are going to continue. 
There also needs to be an equal comittment to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and communities and community service organisations to improve the social determinants of culture, health, education, housing and employment.

If you want suggestions for action go to website  and for more ideas and to offer your skills, time and financial support.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. We can and must all work together on this.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

look out for Coroner's report on Mulrunji Inquest Friday 14 may

Coroner Brian Hine will start delivering his report at about 9:30 tomorrow, at Court 3, Townsville Courts.

Some of his findings should be on the news. The full text should be at, coroners court, Findings, by mid-afternoon.

I should have some comments and suggestions for action, by mid- late afternoon.

Meanwhile you might like to check out Ian Curr's comments on

Let's hope we finally have some truth about what really happened on the 19th November and  subsequently.  We may also have some comments on the suppressed evidence which Jeff Waters and others have written about.

Talk soon,