Saturday, July 3, 2010

Mr Ward’s family still denied justice

Video from the action

[This video can also be viewed at Green Left Weekly and on YouTube.]

On July 2, 100 people rallied at St Georges Terrace in response to the Western Australian Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision not to lay criminal charges against the two guards involved in the death of Mr Ward.

The emergency action was called by the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee and was addressed by Marianne Mackay and Marc Newhouse from DICWC.

Some wore T-shirts that read: “What Eddie Mabo was to Native Title, let Mr Ward be to the justice system.”

Mr Ward, a respected Aboriginal elder, was literally cooked to death in the back of a prisoner van while being driven 360 kilometres from Laverton to Kalgoorlie to face court for a traffic offence. Temperatures inside the van were in excess of 50° Celsius.

Mr Ward was being transported by private company G4S. In the words of the coroner, he “suffered a terrible death, which was wholly unnecessary and avoidable”.

The DPP has decided no criminal charges will be laid against any party responsible for Mr Ward’s death.

Mackay, who is also a candidate for the Ecological Social Justice Aboriginal Party, told the protest: "There is no evidence [to charge anybody] because this is a black man [we're talking about], that's why there is no evidence."

Alex Bainbridge, Socialist Alliance candidate for Perth, told the rally that so far every month this year, there has been an Aboriginal death in custody somewhere in Australia. "This is not an historical issue from a long time ago, this is something that is happening right now, today," he said.

In response to the public outrage at the DPP’s decision, DICWC is joining with Mr Ward’s family to demand:
* the coronial inquest into Mr Ward's death be re-opened;
* an independent review of the DPP decision not to bring criminal charges be conducted;
* the evidence and advice the DPP used to make the decision that no criminal charges be laid be tabled in parliament;
* the transportation of detained persons be returned to the Department of Corrective Services and the G4S contract ended;
* there be independent and effective investigation of any future deaths in custody;
* new criminal offences of corporate and custodial manslaughter be introduced into legislation to ensure that parties responsible for any similar deaths in custody in the future cannot escape being held criminally responsible;
* there be an independent public inquiry into institutionalised racism in the WA criminal justice system.

[This article is by Jacqui Clee is from Green Left Weekly #843.]

Photo slideshow

The next action organised by Deaths in Custody Watch Committee will be a major public rally at 1pm, Sun 11 July in the Supreme Court Gardens.