Saturday, November 21, 2009

Watchdog slams Queensland police corruption

ANTI-corruption watchdog chief Robert Needham has slammed police mishandling of the Mulrunji death in custody, unleashing his most scathing attack yet on an internal police investigation. The Crime and Misconduct Commission is expected to release its report on the police investigation into the 2004 Palm Island death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee, 36, known by his tribal name as Mulrunji, next year.

Mr Needham, the CMC chair, said yesterday the CMC was less than happy with the handling of the police probe into the death of the Aboriginal man inside the Palm Island watchhouse five years ago. "What we've done is go back to ground zero," he said. "We've gone right to the primary documents. We went to every interview that's ever been had with all the relevant officers and gone back through every single thing in great detail."

The CMC report is expected to recommend disciplinary action against senior officers who investigated the death in custody and to criticise the case as an example of police protecting their own. Mr Needham said he would wait until the report was finished before going any further.

Yesterday he released the three-year investigation into policing in remote indigenous communities ordered after the infamous riots and burning of the police station on Palm Island, five years ago today, and another 2007 riot in Aurukun.

The CMC report calls on the State Government to make finalising all outstanding legal matters in the affair by the sixth anniversary of Mulrunji's death next year a high priority "goal".

But the man's family remains sceptical. "It's not over yet,"' said sister Lizzie Doomadgee. Yesterday Lizzie and two sisters admitted to a case of deja vu as they sat in the front row of Townsville Magistrates Court. They sat, resolute, as they did through a first coronial inquest, a CMC inquiry, a Department of Public Prosecutions decision, an Attorney-General's appeal, a manslaughter trial, and now another inquest. "We're waiting for justice," said Ms Doomadgee. They still have a civil damages suit pending against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley and Queensland Police.

Five years ago, Mulrunji died of internal bleeding with four broken ribs and his liver cleaved in two after a jailhouse tussle with Sen-Sgt Hurley. Sen-Sgt Hurley was tried and acquitted of the manslaughter of Mulrunji in 2007.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Brian Hine yesterday ordered the second inquest be held over 10 days on Palm Island and in Townsville from March 8. The second inquest comes after a Court of Appeal ordered the findings of the 2006 inquest that Hurley caused the injuries to Mulrunji by punching him be set aside.

It later emerged Mulrunji probably died as a result of a catastrophic injury caused by compressive force to his stomach, most likely a knee. [The knee of a hulking cop by the name of Hurley, to be precise]

Counsel assisting the coroner Ralph Devlin said there had been "many conflicting and inconsistent accounts of witnesses".


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