Queensland Premier Peter Beattie is trying to ease anger of the
controversial death of Mulrunji Doomadgee saying any future
indigenous deaths in custody will automatically be treated as
Mr Beattie today flagged the change amid growing outrage about
the authorities' handling of Mulrunji's death in custody on Palm
Island in 2004.
The Aboriginal community's anger has grown since Director of
Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leanne Clare last week announced Senior
Sergeant Chris Hurley would not be charged over Mulrunji's
This was despite the deputy state coroner Christine Clements'
ruling in September that the officer caused his death.
Mr Beattie said Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson told Palm
Island council yesterday all indigenous deaths in custody would be
treated as suspicious, following claims an initial police probe
into Mulrunji's death was bungled and tainted with bias.
Mr Beattie said investigations would be "centrally managed" by
the Crime and Misconduct Commission, the police Ethical Standards
Command as well as specialist units such as homicide.
"This will remove even a perception that such deaths in custody
are not thoroughly and independently investigated," he told
reporters in Brisbane.
He said he did not expect the decision to be "universally
applauded by police", but welcomed Mr Atkinson's announcement.
"It's one way to deal with this issue ... the police
commissioner is bending over backwards to try and ensure that there
is confidence in the police service in this state," Mr Beattie
He also said a letter from Attorney-General Kerry Shine was sent
to Ms Clare today, saying a review or second opinion on her
decision would be "strongly" supported by the premier.
"During the meetings held with community representatives (on
Palm Island)... the premier and I made it clear that any 'review or
second opinion' on the matter was strictly one for the
consideration of the (DPP)," Mr Shine wrote.
"The premier has however indicated that he would strongly
support such a review, if this decision was made."
However Ms Clare said later today she wouldn't seek an external
review of her decision not to charge a policeman over the death of
a Palm Island man in custody.
"If this case had gone to a jury no law-abiding citizen, black
or white, Christian or Muslim, would have found this man guilty,"
she said in the statement.
Mr Beattie denied the letter, drafted in conjunction with his
office, constituted a backflip after previously insisting he would
not interfere with Ms Clare's independence.
Mr Beattie also announced a $36 million Indigenous Alcohol
Diversion pilot program.
The program, which starts in July 2007 and will run for three
years, is aimed at rehabilitating people charged with minor
offences and with alcohol problems.
The program's centres will be located at Cairns, Townsville and
Rockhampton and will service indigenous communities including Palm