Palm Island residents protest the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee.
Photo: Paul Harris
Indigenous Australians have reacted with outrage to a senior
prosecutor's defiant rejection of challenges to her decision not to
press charges against a policeman over a death in custody.
Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare
yesterday ignored calls from both Premier Peter Beattie and
Attorney-General Kerry Shine, who had urged her to review her
controversial decision relating to the death of a Palm Island
Ms Shine sent a letter to Ms Clare yesterday saying a review of
the decision would be "strongly" supported by Premier Beattie.
But Ms Clare said in a statement last night: "If this case had
gone to a jury, no law abiding citizen - black or white, Christian
or Muslim - would have found this man guilty."
Ms Clare provoked outrage last week when she decided not to
charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over the 2004 death of Mulrunji
Doomadgee, despite an earlier coronial finding that he was
responsible for the death.
Deputy Coroner Christine Clements found Senior Sergeant Hurley
was responsible for the four broken ribs and torn liver Mr
Doomadgee suffered during his arrest. His death led to riots on the
island, off Townsville.
Ms Clare said she was "acutely aware" of the controversy
surrounding her decision not to press charges. "It does not change
the fact, however, that the evidence does not support a
She said she would not submit her decision to external review
because to do so would be to call her independence into
Palm Island Mayor Delena Foster said said she was "disappointed,
angry and disgusted" at the decision.
"It makes you wonder, 'What has she got to hide?' It's cowardly
on her part," Ms Foster said.
Labor President Warren Mundine said: "I don't think she's got it
through her thick skull that she has jeopardised the reputation of
the entire Queensland justice system."
Even judges had to explain how they arrived at their decisions
when they handed down findings, but "this woman has put herself
above the High Court in that she thinks she doesn't have to
(explain herself)," he said.
"From the very beginning, this (investigation) has looked like
an old boy's club . . . The whole system seems to operate on this
Mr Mundine warned that by refusing to have her decision
independently reviewed, Ms Clare had "upped the ante".
"Now we'll have to go to Peter Beattie and ask him to change the
law so that we have scrutiny of decisions by the DPP and an appeal
mechanism put in place so that we can appeal if we're not happy
with the decision," he said.
Ms Clare said Senior Sergeant Hurley could not be prosecuted
even if she did order an external review.
"The firm assessment of my office was that the evidence fell
considerably short of that which would be required to put anyone on
trial. Therefore, no one in my office could prosecute this case
regardless of any position adopted by an external review.
"Prosecuting is not about being popular. It is about taking on
the admissible evidence without fear or favour and doing what is
considered in good faith to be the right thing."
Ms Clare's decision may still be reviewed, however. Brisbane
lawyer Andrew Boe is preparing to mount a challenge in the
Queensland Supreme Court after advice from Bret Walker, SC, that
her ruling was open to question.
Earlier, Mr Beattie announced that all indigenous deaths in
custody in Queensland would be treated as suspicious, following
claims an initial police probe was bungled and tainted with bias.
Several of the investigating police were friends of Senior Sergeant
Hurley and drank and dined with him at his house during the
On Wednesday, Mr Beattie travelled to Palm Island to placate the
community but was snubbed by Mr Doomadgee's partner and his
"The family thought it was a waste of time to meet him," their
lawyer, Frederic Cassis, said.