'End custody death confusion'

December 15, 2006

Federal indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough has urged the Queensland government to order an independent investigation into the death of an Aboriginal man on Palm Island two years ago.

Queensland's Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare yesterday said charges would not be laid against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley.

In September, a coroner found Snr Sgt Hurley struck Mulrunji Doomadgee, 36, and caused his fatal injuries on November 19, 2004, at the police station on the far north Queensland island.

But Ms Clare yesterday said the death had been due to a "complicated fall" and the evidence was not capable of proving Snr Sgt Hurley was criminally responsible for Mulrunji's death.

Mr Brough said the findings of the coroner and the DPP were poles apart.

"Two pieces of very conflicting advice coming from public officials, one being the coroner and one being the DPP," Mr Brough told ABC Radio.

"That is simply throwing the community into huge confusion, disarray and bewilderment at the decision.

"So Peter Beattie - please announce that this will be reviewed urgently in the interest of the family and the wider community."

Queensland Police Minister Judy Spence said such a review would be inappropriate.

"Mal Brough, I understand, is really asking for political intervention into the legal process and I think that would be very inappropriate," Ms Spence said.

Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson accused Ms Clare of incompetence and said the government should seek a second opinion.

"This is a decision that has probably kept every indigenous person in this state, restless with visceral anger and despair at the state of the justice system here in Queensland," he said.

"Leanne Clare's competence has been under question since day one, she has been appointed DPP in an orgy of political correctness by the Queensland Labor government.

"Nobody in Queensland can have confidence in her judgment and the government should forthwith, for the confidence of the indigenous people in this jurisdiction, seek a second opinion from a department of public prosecutions in another jurisdiction."

Meanwhile, extra police are on standby in Townsville in case of violence on Palm Island.

The island erupted into rioting in the days after Mulrunji's death.

The government has also put extra counsellors on standby to help the community come to terms with the DPP's decision.

A community mental health team is in place on the island and Relationships Australia will start providing services from today.

Acting Communities Minister Kerry Shine said the government coordinator on the island had reported no need for additional services, but would monitor the situation.