NT Minister’s decision not to discipline officers a disgrace - ALA

5th Oct 2012

A lawyer representing the family of a man who died in a Northern Territory watchhouse, earlier this year, has labelled the Deputy Chief Minister’s announcement today, not to discipline the officers who contributed to his death, as shameful.

“Deputy Chief Minister, Robyn Lambley’s announcement is a disgrace. We have been pressing for the DPP to press criminal charges against the officers involved.

"Now we find that the Northern Territory Government doesn’t even propose disciplining those whose duty it was to care for Mr Briscoe, while inside the watchhouse, and who directly played a role in his death,” Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman and Shine lawyer George Newhouse, said.

Mr Newhouse is representing the family of 27-year-old Kwementyaye Briscoe who died at the Alice Springs watchhouse in January.

Coroner, Greg Cavanagh found that the 27-year-old had died through a combination of police error, intoxication and asphyxiation and that inadequate care provided to meet Mr Briscoe, while in their care, contributed to his death.

“If a couple in the Northern Territory had left their child to die in the awkward physical position that Mr Briscoe was left in, while they went to play video games, the Northern Territory Government would be prosecuting them with the full strength of the law,” Mr Newhouse said.

“Yet, Mr Briscoe was taken into custody and left in such a vulnerable physical position, while officers played on their iphones and computers,” he said.

“We’ve had a Royal Commission and a series of coronial inquests to try to fix this problem, but sadly after 25 years nothing has changed.

"The 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody found custodial authorities had 'little appreciation of and less dedication to the duty of care' to persons in custody.

"It also criticised the system for not investigating each death fully, noting that most investigations were 'perfunctory and from a narrow focus'.

“Only when officers are held accountable through criminal or disciplinary actions can the culture of disregard for human life by prison authorities, particularly towards Indigenous people, be changed,” Mr Newhouse said.

Tags: Northern Territory Criminal justice police powers Indigenous rights