Shine seeks review team

28th 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 yesterday 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 Snr 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 yesterday 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 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 ... 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."

The Doomadgee family's lawyer, Frederic Cassis, said yesterday the family welcomed Mr Shanahan's decision.

"The family's view is that this is an absolutely necessary decision, there was no other way in which this review could possibly proceed ... (given the) potential for a conflict of interest," Mr Cassis said. "This matter has been beset with a lack of transparency from day one, when Chris Hurley's friends commenced the investigation into (Mulrunji's) death in the watchhouse, right through to the DPP making a decision on additional evidence which she has refused to make public.

"No-one can argue there has been an enormous injustice done to the Doomadgee family.

"The Queensland Government has an opportunity to have this review conducted independently, thoroughly, and by a person free from any political, personal, or any other affiliation to any involvement in this matter."

Mr Cassis said the Doomadgee family again called on the Queensland Government to have the review taken outside of Queensland.

He said the review should be carried out by an interstate former Chief Justice of the High Court, like Sir Gerard Brennan or Sir Anthony Mason.

"They've got an opportunity now – we urge them to take it," Mr Cassis said of the Queensland Government.

He said if – as has been suggested in some circles – Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare made the right decision then the Government should have nothing to hide.