Law changes follow Palm Island death

November 02, 2006 11:41am

QUEENSLAND police will be retrained and laws amended to ensure police use arrest as a last resort, under the government's response to an Aboriginal death in custody inquest.

Mulrunji Doomadgee died in police custody on Palm Island, off Townsville, in November 2004.

Acting state coroner Christine Clements found Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, the police officer in charge of the Palm Island station, struck Mulrunji several times before he died in a holding cell.

An autopsy revealed the 36-year-old suffered broken ribs and his liver had been "almost cleaved in two".

Snr Sgt Hurley has been stood down while the Director of Public Prosecutions investigates whether to charge him over Mulrunji's death.

Premier Peter Beattie told parliament today the government had finalised its response to the coroner's 40 comments.

"The government generally supports them and many are already in place," Mr Beattie said.

He said police laws would be amended to reinforce the principle of arrest as a last resort.

The police procedures manual would also be changed and police training reviewed.

"I want to be clear about this - this is not about being soft in any way," Mr Beattie said.

"We've got very tough laws and if people break the laws and are arrested they go to jail.

"But there are appropriate procedures to be followed prior to that and we endorse them."

Mr Beattie said the police service had agreed to review the way it monitors detainees in watchhouses and would seek advice from Aboriginal groups.

But it was not possible, particularly in remote areas, for police to meet the coroner's appeal for all detainees to be monitored 24 hours a day.

Police would also review the way in which they worked with the coroner's office and Crime and Misconduct Commission following concerns over the initial investigation into the death.

"The government remains committed to working with the Palm Island community and indigenous people," Mr Beattie said.