Fwd (GLW): Police withdraw charge against Aboriginal academic

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Jun 4 19:57:47 MDT 2000

Two articles from the latest issue of Green Left Weekly:

Police withdraw charge against Aboriginal academic

POLICE HAVE dropped charges against a prominent Aboriginal academic whom
they strip-searched and jailed after she allegedly accused a police officer
of “acting like the Ku Klux Klan”.

On May 31, Townsville police withdrew a complaint “in the spirit of
reconciliation” against Gracelyn Smallwood in which she was accused of
insulting police officer Louise Egerton on February 11.

Smallwood was arrested after trying to intervene on behalf of an Aboriginal
youth and an elder, Renarta Prior, outside the Sovereign Hotel where police
had been called to a disturbance.

Smallwood said outside the court on May 31, “I'm very pleased that there
has been a compromise on both sides in the spirit of reconciliation, but
not to forget that reconciliation cannot occur without justice, and I
believe justice has been done”.

Smallwood is still seeking legal advice about taking civil action against
police, saying she suffered spinal injuries from being thrown into the back
of a police van.

WA minister claims Aboriginal people safer in jail

PERTH -- The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia has called for
the immediate resignation of the state's Aboriginal affairs minister, Kim
Hames, after he told a Legislative Assembly budget estimates committee that
imprisonment may reduce, rather than increase, the risk of suicide among
some Aboriginal youths.

The legal service's chief executive officer, Dennis Eggington, said Hames
“has shown that he is unable to talk about the people he has a duty of care
for without denigrating them” and that the minister “cannot represent the
interests of Western Australian Aborigines. If he hadn't lost the total
confidence of Aboriginal peoples of Western Australia, it is certainly lost

On May 26, a 25-year-old Aboriginal man was found dead in his cell at
Kalgoorlie Prison. He was the third death in the state's prisons in five
days, the fourth in two weeks -- three of the four men were Aboriginal.

The justice department immediately issued a statement that there were no
suspicious circumstances, even though the death is now the subject of a
coronial inquiry to determine whether or not that it is the case.

“Our people are still dying in their jails”, the chairperson of WA's Deaths
in Custody Watch Committee, Murray Jones, said. “And yet the prisons, the
ministry of justice and the minister continue to try to hide the facts
surrounding each death.

“If they have got nothing to hide, why have they tried to stop the watch
committee's own independent investigation of prison deaths, and why have
they so strongly resisted our forensic consultant gaining access to the
scene of death and photographing necessary evidence on behalf of the
lawyers representing the families?”, Jones asked.

The watch committee has called for a royal commission into WA prison deaths
and for the prison police unit to be replaced by independent investigators.

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