State looks for replacement over Palm Island

By Rosemary Desmond
27th December 2006

QUEENSLAND Attorney-General Kerry Shine is still to find a replacement for a retired judge who has stepped down from a review of a decision not to charge a police sergeant over a death in custody.

Former Chief Judge of the District Court Pat Shanahan today told Mr Shine he would not review the decision by Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare not to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over the death of 36-year-old Mulrunji Doomadgee in the Palm Island watchhouse in November 2004.

Ms Clare initially had insisted she would not seek an external review of her decision.

The DPP said the “evidence did not support a prosecution”, despite state deputy coroner Christine Clements' ruling in September that Sen Sgt Hurley caused Mulrunji's death.

Mr Shanahan had been widely criticised as having a conflict of interest after it was revealed he was on a panel that appointed Ms Clare as DPP in 1999.

Mr Shanahan and Brisbane criminal lawyer Peter Davis, SC, were appointed last Friday to conduct the review.

Mr Shine said in a statement today he had asked the Crown solicitor to find a replacement for Mr Shanahan, but Mr Davis would continue to serve on the review.

“The Crown solicitor has still to find a replacement for the retired chief judge,” a spokesman for Mr Shine said.

“The review will consider the DPP's file on the matter dealing with the death of Mulrunji on Palm Island in November 2004.”

The review was expected to be completed in February next year.

But the State Government's handling of the matter has come under fire from the Opposition and Aboriginal groups.

Opposition legal affairs spokesman Mark McArdle stopped short of calling for Mr Shine's resignation but said the minister made a “complete mess” of the Mulrunji matter, his first major decision since taking office on November 1.

“The Attorney-General, to date in this position, has not performed up to the standard that we expect of an Attorney-General,” Mr McArdle said.

“There is a serious cloud over as to whether he has the capacity to take on the role of the state's first law officer.

“This is his first major decision and he has made a complete mess of it.”

Around 1000 people rallied and marched through Brisbane streets last Wednesday, calling for the sacking of Ms Clare and the resignation of Premier Peter Beattie and Police Minister Judy Spence.

Organiser of the protest, Sam Watson, said Mr Shanahan should never have been appointed.

“His name should not have been put forward in the first place.”

Anyone who replaced Mr Shanahan should come from outside Queensland, Mr Watson said.