Justice is still being called for Rex Bellotti Jnr

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Socialist Alliance Perth 6th August 2011

Since March 2009 it has been unclear whether promising footballer Rex Bellotti Junior will need to have his leg amputated after he was run over by a police four wheel drive in Albany, Western Australia.

The Indigenous boy, then 15, was leaving a wake when the police vehicle, driving on the wrong side of the road, struck him with sufficient force to drag him under the van, breaking his right femur and inflicting lacerations to his legs.

Though severe, Bellotti Jr’s injuries did not compel the officers involved to stop and assist. They instead left the boy in the care of family and passersby. Fortunately, among them was an off-duty medic who gave him immediate attention.

Thirteen hours passed before Bellotti Jr arrived in surgery, in which time irreparable damage to his legs had already been done.

He was then transferred for treatment in Royal Perth Hospital, where he was subjected to a “random” strip search after medications went missing in his shared ward.

His family has since moved to Perth to be close to their son and campaign for justice from the state government and against the racial discrimination that permeates the justice system in Western Australia.

Neither Bellotti Jr nor other key witnesses were even interviewed by police until April 2009, more than a month after the incident — and this only after The Sunday Times had published an article on the whole debacle.

An Albany newspaper article published four days after the incident quoted police officers saying “it appeared the teenager had deliberately walked in front of the ongoing car” which they claimed had “slowed down to 40km/hr”.

For more than a month, local police involved in the incident seemingly saw no need to add further testimonies to their own. But statements taken since from other witnesses have refuted the version of events given by police.

"Given the injuries suffered by Rex Jnr., it would be hard to accept that the lack of obtaining statements is merely an oversight". Western Australia Corruption and Crimes Commission

An internal inquiry performed by the Western Australian Police Force in October 2009 concluded that while errors in police handling had occurred, it was “satisfied that every effort had been made by the WA Police to undertake a thorough and transparent investigation into these matters”.

However, the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) slammed these “satisfying” conclusions in November 2009. It said: “Given the injuries suffered by Rex Jr, it would be hard to accept that the lack of obtaining statements is merely ‘an oversight’.”

However, the CCC fell short of acknowledging the racist motivations behind this sickening case of injustice.

Rex Bellotti Senior told the National Indigenous Times in June 2009 that no internal inquiry would achieve justice for his son. “Police investigating police again,” he said. “At the end of the day they can exonerate each other … they’ve got each others’ backs.”

Accusations of racial discrimination to Indigenous people are hardly new for the WA police and the justice system.

Other recent scandals include the charging of a then-12-year-old Indigenous boy with receiving a 70 cent chocolate as “stolen property” in November 2009 and the ongoing Deaths in Custody Watch Committee campaign seeking justice for the family of Mr Ward, who died in horrendous circumstances in 2008 in a prison transport van.

Alongside these stands the tragedy inflicted on Rex Bellotti Jr and his family, who have been left until now without counselling services, without compensation and without a formal apology or recognition of guilt on the part of the state government or the WA police.

For Bellotti Sr, there is no doubt about the role institutional racism played in the treatment his son and family had suffered.

He told Green Left Weekly: “If I was driving a four wheel drive, like the one that I own, and ran over a young white child while driving on the wrong side of the road … and you can ask any of our Indigenous people here or in the eastern states as well … we would be considered guilty until proven innocent.

“My son and my family didn’t ask for any of this. We feel like we’ve gotten nowhere yet, but this is only the beginning.”

Supporters of Rex Bellotti Jr have demonstrated outside state parliament twice so far this year in a campaign that is expected to win wider support in the coming months.

[This article by Chris Jenkins was first published in Green Left Weekly #883.]

Justice for Rex Bellotti Jnr

Gerry Georgatos Green Left Weekly Saturday, August 6, 2011

An Aboriginal youth, Rex Bellotti Jnr, aged 15 was run over by a police four-wheel-drive Holden Rodeo and more than two years have passed without any compensation, without any closure. When it comes to Aboriginal victims this is nothing new.

Nyungar-Yamatji Maaman Rex Bellotti Sr and Nyungar Yorga Liz Bellotti, 42 and 40 years old, have spent their lives working very hard to ensure the likelihood of the personal advancement of their children, in the belief that Aboriginal advancement should be achieved by Aboriginal peoples.

They had never asked for help and had worked to ensure that their six children, now aged 6 to 17, have had every reasonable opportunity. They have given every little bit of what they have to provide for their children the experience and hopes of a private school education.

Rex Sr often says that Aboriginal children are treated harshly by the public education sector. Far too many are forced to drop out of public schools. Rex Sr and Liz go without many things in order to educate their children. They have never wanted to be at the discretion of philanthropy.

Rex Sr has often described that Aboriginal peoples have for far too long been oppressed by the inter-generational attitudes, premises and prejudices of non-Aboriginal Australians and that Aboriginal peoples cannot depend upon non-Aboriginal Australians to help Aboriginal peoples — however that Aboriginal peoples, even in the weighty blight of the voluminous adversities and disparities faced by them, must scrap for everything they can to bring about the reduction of the disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

Non-Aboriginal Australia has continued to fail in its promises to Aboriginal peoples, and merely being an apologist cannot ensure freedom and ones full suite of rights.

On March 6, 2009, the Bellotti family's eldest son, Rex Jnr., aged 15, was involved in a police-related-incident. It was not of his making, he was an Aboriginal person at a place that police were converging upon.

Since March 6, 2009 the Bellotti family has endured the severest forms of unrelenting grief and for the most part had been abandoned in their grief — without any form of adequate support, in a bleak vacuum of inhumanity.

Since this police-related-incident Rex Sr, Liz and Rex Jnr and his five siblings have not only had to deal with the trauma of grievous injuries sustained by Rex Jnr however they have had to cope with the culture of brutal silence surrounding the Albany Police and the Western Australian Police and with the contemptible minimalist fodder that we have all long learned to expect from various government authorities, ministerial portfolio holders and from the agencies which argue various demarcation and claim to be independent auditors and investigators.

On March 6, within the last hour prior to midnight Rex Jnr was leaving a Wake when he was struck by a police vehicle, a four-wheel-drive, with a roo-bar, which according to witnesses was driving on the wrong side of the road.

It has been alleged that Rex Jnr was hit by the vehicle on the opposite side of the road, on the wrong side of the road, however the police officers in question deny this and conversely claim that they were driving on the correct side of the road, and that it was not on the opposite side of the road that Rex Jnr was struck by their vehicle.

However, what beggars belief for many non-Aboriginal Australians is the keystone, almost circus-like police investigation that for a significant period of time struggled to take effect, and for a crucial period of time had very little form and content.

There was no bona fide investigation during the immediacy of the event. However, for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, for the Nyungar communities of the south west of Western Australia, and the Nyungar peoples number 34,000 of Western Australia's 80,000 Aboriginal peoples, and for all of Western Australian Aboriginal peoples, and for Aboriginal peoples across this expansive continent, and to those non-Aboriginal folk who have lived and worked alongside our Aboriginal brothers and sisters there is nothing here to beggar belief — this is routine — the silences, the mind-boggling fodder, the passing of the buck, the casting of aspersions upon the victim and the victim's family, and upon the victim's cultural identity and their community — for Aboriginal peoples these insults, these discriminations, these racisms are a daily experience, are matter-of-fact. They are some of the veils of this country's racist identity.

For near two and half years the Bellottis have been unveiling the discriminatory and racist layers which damage the Australian national identity, and which keep oppressed peoples who otherwise should enjoy a right to their historical and contemporary identities, who should be able to enjoy unfettered self-determination through various political persuasions and cultural settings.

The Bellottis have not only been staring into the abyss of spiteful hate by those who are scared by the Bellottis unveiling the layers of racism however they are now being victimised by this very hate because they have the audacity to seek some raindrops of justice, some remedy, some closure for a police-related-incident which thereabouts just about destroyed the life, and most certainly the once immediate hopes, of their son, and which has spiralled Rex Bellotti Jnr into a dark world of melancholia and into the high-end risk of various clinical disorders.

Rex Jnr seeks respite through damaging altered states when he cannot cope with the grief of his injuries and the discriminatory and racist insults from the hostile silences that humiliate him and his family.

The trauma is so deep for Rex Jnr that he has to live apart from his immediate family, far from the sterile inhumanities of a metropolis such as Perth, and is now living in northern WA, in Carnarvon, with his Aunty Melanie.

His family is trying to find the money to buy a caravan for him to live in, with a modicum of independence, on a nearby property to his Aunty in Carnarvon while the passing of time tries to heal Rex's physical and mental wounds.

In the meantime the various authorities, who should represent the interests of each of us rather than some of us, act as if they have a right to be affronted by the questions put to them by the family and by others who are now in support of the rights of this family which for far too long endured what most Aboriginal peoples far too often suffer in silence when they have been victim to various injustices.

Simply, this whole article can be summed up with the assertion that Police should not investigate Police — this should be “a given”.

Since the 6th of March 2009, it has remained unclear whether then promising footballer Rex Bellotti Jnr will need to have his right leg amputated after he was run over by the four-wheel-drive police vehicle, in Albany, Western Australia.

The police vehicle struck Rex Jnr with such force that it dragged Rex Jnr under the vehicle, breaking his femur and horrifically extensively lacerating his right leg.

The police reports which have been secured under Police Freedom of Information Acts state that the police officers in question allege the vehicle was not being driven at a speed greater than 41 kmph at the time of the impact with Rex Bellotti Jnr.

Though not impossible, it is difficult to fathom how any vehicle travelling at only 41 kmph would subsume a reasonably sized human being asunder beneath its undercarriage. For the average person it is difficult to imagine a vehicle travelling at only, or less than, 41 kmph causing the grievous injuries that Rex Bellotti Jnr incurred in that impact.

Aside those involved and those alleged as witnesses we would know much more today, and be able to displace the presumptions of various questionable and conflicting evidences beyond reasonable doubt, if this police-related-incident had obliged the courtesy of an extensive investigation.

Demarcated investigators should have been called in to examine the scene of the accident, to ensure a full forensic examination, to ensure that all potential witnesses had provided their testimonies. Most of this, if not all of this, did not occur. Therefore, once again the opportunity for trust building exercises between non-Aboriginal Australians and our Aboriginal brothers and sisters has been shattered.

It has been alleged the police officers involved did not stay long and in fact left the scene of the police-related-incident and that to some of those present, and to many supporters and advocates of the Bellotti family, this is in effect the “leaving of the scene of an accident” which Australians have been schooled by the news media and by the Police at every opportunity for us to understand that the leaving of a scene of a crime and accident are unlawful and in fact are a criminal offence.

Many people, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal believe that the involved police officers could be guilty of a “hit and run”. The police reports are not clear however they do describe the involved police officers as having remained at the scene for a period of time and that in fact other police officers did arrive. Witnesses have described that Rex Jnr was hit on the opposite side of the road.

Witnesses, who were at the Wake, or who were Passers-By, describe that the involved police did not remain at the scene and according to them in fact they left the scene of the accident, and that in fact at no time while they may have been there did any police officers offer to assist Rex Jnr., and that they did not assist Rex Jnr.

However the police reports describe the presence of the involved police officers and of another Albany Police Officer having been called to the scene. Rex Jnr., lay encumbered by his injuries pale, hardly a murmur, bleeding profusely, and many would have been questioning whether there was a whisper of life left in Rex's body, and yet the police officers did not assist.

The police reports do describe that the involved police officers called for an ambulance. The victim was left in the care of bereft and horrified relatives and friends and shocked Passers-By. Fortunately, one of the Passers-By was an off-duty medic who in the immediacy provided assistance.

Thirteen hours would pass before Rex Jnr., with his injuries threatening his very life, utterly traumatised, would undergo urgent surgery. Rex Sr., has explained that by this time irreparable damage had occurred to the leg in question. Rex Sr., and Liz with eyes welling, exhale pained sighs of relief in the fact that their son was not killed by the impact.

If Rex Jnr had died at the scene or some time later in hospital he would in fact have been another Australian Deaths in Custody statistic. Rex would have been an Aboriginal and Australian deaths in custody statistic.

This would have been a police-custodial-related death in custody. There have been 2056 Australian deaths in custody between 1980 to 2008, with 379 of these deaths Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Between 1980 to May 1989 there were 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody. However since May 1989 the crude totals have risen, with thereabouts 150 Aboriginal deaths in custody each decade since. During this last decade Aboriginal deaths in custody have in fact increased as a proportion of total deaths in custody in this country - in fact from 18.3% during the nineties to 20.2%.

Since 2008 to present there have occurred thereabouts another 160 Australian deaths in custody, and my research indicates Aboriginal deaths in custody rising both in terms of crude totals and in terms of proportion to total deaths and in proportion to the total Australian population.

Western Australia has Australia's worst Aboriginal deaths in custody record, and during 2008 WA had three times the national average of Aboriginal deaths in custody. Western Australia has the worst incarceration rates of Aboriginal peoples in Australia, and Aboriginal people die in custody in Western Australia younger than anywhere else in Australia. The lowest median average of age is in Western Australia.

It is imperative to seek explanations as to why they die younger in Western Australian police and prison custodial related incidents than elsewhere in this country. Western Australian Aboriginal peoples are more likely to die in custody, especially prison-custodial, than non-Aboriginal peoples, at rates much worse than any other Australian territory or state.

Are Western Australian Aboriginal peoples and their youth this bad or is the criminal justice system skewered and the non-Aboriginal peoples of WA harsh upon Aboriginal peoples? In my 17 years in Western Australia, a place I now call home and very likely where my bones will rest, I have never been so appalled by the various prejudices and racisms and by the abhorrent disregard by the majority of the Western Australian population towards its Aboriginal peoples.

One government after another is at fault for its persistent human rights abuses and its impoverishment of peoples long owed their freedom.

The disturbing fact is that none of these thousands of deaths in custody, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, have culminated in a successful prosecution of police or prison officers.

The average Australian knows for a fact that some of these deaths are without reservation the result of not only inhumane maltreatment of peoples however that they are the result of criminal negligence and sheer violence.

The Australian landscape, cultural and political, is stained by the bloody memories we own, and which affect our national identity and tear at our very humanity, of the unnatural deaths of so many people while within various custody. For every death in police and prison custody it is a given that there are many near deaths in custody, such as that of Rex Jnr., and that for every death in custody, it is another given that there are scores of people maltreated, abused, and beaten to a pulp – and for every death in custody such as that of 16 year old Roebourne boy John Pat who was beaten and had his skull smashed as it slammed to the concrete, and similarly of the death of Palm Island's Mulrunji Doomadjee, there are scores of people taken to within an inch of their life such as Kevin Spratt, tasered at least 41 times over five incidents by Western Australian police and prison officers.

Our ability to discover the truth is outstripped by our ability to manifest deceit.

Western Australian Police Officers lied that Kevin Spratt was a physical danger to them and that he was resisting arrest.

The Western Australian Corruption and Crimes Commission thanks only to the harsh unavoidable brunt of CCTV footage proved that the Western Australian Police Officers in question brutishly lied and that they outrageously fabricated the charge sheet. Subsequent the CCC's viewing of the CCTV footage, the CCC had no choice but to instruct that certain convictions against Kevin Spratt be quashed. It is self evident that the nine police officers, and similarly with the prison officers, 'covered' for each other even if it was by “silence”.

In terms of the litany of charges against Kevin Spratt that he resisted arrest and that he was violent to police, or that he was a physical threat to them, an innocent man was persecuted. If such an obvious culture of cruel favour-dispensation and vicious nepotism and the immoral covering up for each other has been proven again and again why would we all of a sudden trust in police investigating police?

This culture does not just victimise Aboriginal peoples, however it is obvious they are the victims of this more often, it also occurs to non-Aboriginal Australians, as has been proven not just in Western Australia, once again by various CCTV footage, however throughout Australia.

It can be argued that it is human nature to cower support for one another in a profession as difficult as that of a police officer. People will sacrifice others, even if innocent of any wrong-doing, before they will own up to their perpetration of injustice, even if inadvertent.

Rex Jnr's distraught parents arrived at Albany Hospital to find their son sedated by medication however acutely traumatised. Their son said to them that a police vehicle hit him, and he had tried to get out of the way when all of a sudden he saw it.

Rex Jnr said that he was trying to cross the road when all of a sudden the lights of the vehicle came on. He does not remember much more than this as he suffered heavy concussion.

Rex Sr said that it is often the case that police vehicles attend events, even Wakes, where Aboriginal peoples coalesce. His son's comment that the police vehicle's lights were not on and then were suddenly turned on does not surprise Rex Sr. He believes that often police vehicles at night when approaching such gatherings may turn their lights off so as not to be conspicuous.

However the Police reports do not support the claim that the police vehicle may have had its lights off for any period of time during the heart of night's darkness.

Rex Jnr's injuries were life threateningly serious and at near six o'clock the following morning the Royal Flying Doctor flew out of Albany with Rex Jnr for Perth and from there onwards by ambulance to Royal Perth Hospital.

After Rex's surgery at Royal Perth Hospital he was humiliated by the prejudicial stereotypes and assumptions of some non-Aboriginal Australians. Rex Jnr was forced to undergo a supposedly “random strip search” after medication in his shared ward apparently went missing.

Rex Jnr's parents, Rex Snr and Liz, after working hard all their lives, after trying to develop one opportunity after another in their Albany-based family life, while managing the various humblings of the various layers of racism that work only to spite many Aboriginal folk, had to pack up and leave Albany for good and of course with their other five children and relocate more than four hundred kilometres north to Perth so as to be able to provide adequate and appropriate care for Rex Jnr.

They have endured a two year struggle in the seeking of a sliver of justice, and it is always obvious that in a country like Australia with a predominant hostile denial of its racist identity that real or substantive justice for them shall never succeed. However they are entitled to aspire to some justice, and to some closure through various remedies and in the seeking of some admissions of liability and some ownership of culpability and maybe even some discovery of other vicarious liability.

Rex Jnr's injuries, as grievious and as life threatening as they remain, in terms of him refusing an amputation if it were to become necessary, are no longer limited to just physical injuries.

Rex Jnr is finding it difficult to come to terms that his life has been dishevelled, that a once promising footballing career has come to an end. His mother encourages his siblings to not play or speak football when Rex Jnr is nearby as this can send him spiralling into depression.

Rex Jnr's deepest wounds come from the fact that the police will not admit that they hit him on the opposite of the road, and that he did not as the police claim intentionally step in front of the police vehicle, a four-wheel-drive with a roo-bar.

Rex's deepest wounds are that his testimony means nothing to most of non-Aboriginal Australia however of late he has been comforted by seeing others, many non-Aboriginal Australians, support and advocate for Rex's truth, for Rex's right to be heard and for Rex's full suite of rights.

Rex can see that his identity is not seen by every non-Aboriginal Australian as a liability and that he is entitled to be a Nyungar, a Yamatji, an Australian and entitled to be enobled with human worth and dignity. This was denied to Rex by the disgraceful police handling of the investigation.

The core problems with the police investigation of the police-related-incident in which Rex Jnr was hit and run over by a police vehicle is that no third party witnesses were interviewed by police for more than a month.

Clearly, it appears that if it were not for the persistence of his parents and some mainstream news media the Police would never have interviewed anyone outside of themselves.

Other than the involved police officers, as if we are forever expected to maintain an investiture of faith and goodwill in our police, no one was interviewed. Interviews only occurred after The Sunday Times newspaper published a significant article on the tragedy. In the local Albany newspaper, The Albany Advertiser, the only article published four days after the incident quoted police officers, "...it appeared the teenager had deliberately walked in front of the ongoing car" and which they claimed had “...slowed down to 40 km per hour”.

Why was it that for more than a month, local police did not seek testimonies from other sources beyond those of the involved police officers? Why would they have not secured these statements especially when it is alleged that at the scene people had screamed out dissimilar testimonies to those of the involved police and when Passer-Bys noted that they overheard disturbing allegations?

An October 2009 internal police inquiry would conclude that while police mishandled the investigation they were nevertheless "satisfied that every effort had been made by the WA Police to undertake a thorough and transparent investigation into these matters."

The following month, November 2009, the WA Corruption and Crimes Commission, slammed the police investigation - stating, "Given the injuries suffered by Rex Jnr., it would be hard to accept that the lack of obtaining statements is merely an oversight." However the CCC limited itself predominately to observations that the investigation was mishandled and did not commit to any acknowledgment of discrimination or racism.

However, the WA Police can never argue that the CCC absolved them of the imputation of a culture of cover ups or favour dispensation, this remains as arguably self evident, though it may be argued interpretive, in imputations from this very observation by the CCC. In November 2009 Rex Bellotti Sr said, "Police investigating police again. At the end of the day they exonerate each other... they've got each others' backs."

Rex Sr's distrust of non-Aboriginal Australia extended to the CCC. At the time he said he doubted the integrity of the CCC investigation, after his family had been emotionally exhausted by the apparent indifference by the WA Police. Rex Sr., said "Do you trust them? In the past, police investigations have proven they are not worth the time and space and effort.

At the end of the day, they can exonerate each other... they've got each other's backs."

However at the time CCC Director of Operations, Nick Anticich rejected Rex's concerns and was quoted, "The CCC has referred the complaint for a full internal investigation... However, this is not a matter of 'police investigating police' as the Commission will be monitoring and overseeing their investigation. In view of the seriousness of the matter, when the investigation has been completed (by police), the Commission will conduct an independent review into the adequacy of that investigation."

The CCC findings did include, "(Police) have admitted that Sgt (Jason) Liddelow made little effort to gather witness statements in a timely manner. His case management and investigation plan was fundamentally flawed and mistakenly based on the presumption that one highly important witness... needed to be interviewed prior to any others." Rex Sr at the time said it was good that the CCC had concluded that the investigation was flawed however added, "The CCC describes the things that went wrong as flaws, oversights, inexperience and anomalies.

But these are just other words for racism, because the police did not investigate (the case) properly." At the time Police Great Southern District Superintendent Dene Leekong said, "I admit we should have done it better. We didn't get the statements from some witnesses in time.

That's an oversight on our behalf. We had other priority issues unfortunately in our district at the time." This statement alone by the Superintendent is indicatively appalling let alone discriminatory and arguably racist. Superintendent Leekong continued, "We probably did not manage that case as best we could. We're certainly trying to correct our errors now.

But it's not racism and it's not anything sinister." At the time Rex Sr said, "They can say what they want, but the fact remains they didn't investigate this as they would have for a white Australian. They were hoping it would go away, as it had done in the past where crimes against black people have been covered up."

Witness statements were finally taken by police from Rex Bellotti Jnr, and from witnesses Michael Coyne and Ashlee Riley.

All three stated that Rex Jr did not deliberately run or walk into the front of the police four-wheel-drive. They gave testimony that Rex Jnr was crossing the road near a house where a Wake was being held and that in fact when Rex Jnr saw that the police vehicle was approaching him, when allegedly the headlights came on, he tried to 'jump out of its way' however was run over.

Rex Jnr's lawyer at the time, John Hammond, was quoted in the news media, as affirming that after The Sunday Times published articles of the various allegations by the witnesses that all of a sudden he received phone calls from four police officers all urgently seeking to interview Rex Jnr. Mr Hammond was quoted, "Why was the accident never investigated until the matter was exposed by The Sunday Times?"

Furthermore, Mr Hammond was apparently disappointed that there had been no community outcry about the incident in lieu of other recent police-related incidents at the time and he was further quoted, "Why is there not the same response when a 15-year-old-boy is run over by a police vehicle and faces life-threatening injuries?"

Central Queensland University's Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian, Kabi Kabi Senior Elder, with a Masters qualification in Criminal Justice, and Coordinator of the Nulloo Yumbah Learning Spirituality Research Centre said, "In spite of the RCIADIC, the Fitzgeral Inquiry, the Dawes Report, other reports about injustice within the criminal justice system metered out to Aboriginal peoples, one thing seems clear, time for justice has stood still for First Nations people of Australia."

Aunty Cheri pointed out, "Our people are still holding the record for being the most incarcerated peoples in our country and worldwide. Our people are still persecuted if we dare to speak out about the inadequate 'justice' process. Our people, just like younger brother Rex, are left in limbo while the perpetrator is part of the justice system." Aunty Cheri, who contributed research to submissions to the RCIADIC, said "Has there truly been any change?... When stories like (Rex Jnr) come to light one realises that those within the 'justice' system can and will continue to use the very same system to maintain the status quo - injustice - for the members of the First Nations peoples... I ask myself what I can do, how do we as a people construct within the 'justice' system a mechanism whereby justice is done when the perpetrators are officers of the system, public servants or the ordinary person in the street who commits a crime on one of our people... Misconduct in the police rank and file seems to be an 'in-house-joke'. It is a joke that is aimed at us - Aboriginal peoples, and is based... within 'the rightness of whiteness' pervading the most powerful social systems."

Whatever happened on the night of March 6, 2009, we may well, as a community and as a common humanity, never know, nor will the mutually accepted account of the evening ever be recorded, however what we do know without doubt is that for a variety of reasons, and some of them having root in favour-dispensation, in various discriminations, be they coated with an investiture of faith, that justice was not sought by the Albany Police at the scene following the incident nor in the weeks subsequent to the incident.

It is fact that the testimonies of Rex Jnr and other witnesses were not sought by investigating police officers.

This is unequivocal unfettered discrimination and with this point I have no qualms whatsoever standing by it. For the fact that testimonies were not secured from the various witnesses and involved parties indeed bespeaks volumes. Rex Jnr was finally interviewed by police on April 16, and in his police statement Rex Jnr explains that he was not intoxicated, that he had not drunk any significant amount of alcohol at the Wake, that if the police vehicle had its headlights on that it would have been impossible for it to have been missed in the heart of the darkness of the night, that the police vehicle did not have blue lights flashing, that all of a sudden headlights appeared, he tried to get out of the way, he was hit by the roo-bar and from then onwards went in and out of consciousness.

Statements were secured from various witnesses at a snail like pace between April 5, in Albany to April 30, in Bruce Rock, and then to May 5 extending to Katanning, with various statements conflicting with the police officers' versions of the events. However, on July 15, after Major Crash Investigations filed several statements and memorandums, the Great Southern District Police Office 'found' that there was 'no offence' committed by the driver of the police vehicle, and that there was 'insufficient evidence for any charges' and that the matter was 'finalised'.

What is concerning about this 'finding' is that in the documents attached to this 'finding' there is an assessment by the investigating police officer that there were conflicting versions of the events, so dramatic, that any reasonable person would have assumed that an 'external' inquiry occur even if no for no other reason than to remove aspersions and imputations against the Police however preferably in pursuit of a contextual truth beyond reasonable doubts.

Police should not be investigating police - we need demarcated Police Inspectorates who do not report to the Police.

Two months ago, after two years of pleading for assistance, to no avail, from the under resourced Aboriginal Legal Services of WA and from the small social justice community group Deaths in Custody Watch Committee WA, neither being in a position to provide support or to assist in advocating for the rights of Rex Jnr, Rex and Liz came to me - my heart went out to their pain and lone struggle — and we coordinated a snap action rally at the steps of WA's State Parliament — in the pelting rain 30 people turned up. We stopped WA shadow Attorney-General John Quigley and Australian Senator Mark Arbib who both said their offices would assist.

We followed up with another rally in the following week once again at the steps of WA's State Parliament - and this time 50 turned up. At the conclusion of the second rally the Bellotti Support Group was formed and has met every week since. Last Saturday a rally was held in Mokare Park, in Albany, on the main strip, near the town hall. More than 60 turned up, and more than half had driven hundreds of kilometres from Perth, Bunbury and Bridgetown.

The rally was followed with a march through town and to the Albany Police station - where supporters and advocates spoke to the Albany Police via the intercom. The Police Duty Officer said, "You can protest outside the Police Station, you may not enter." We asked if we could file a complaint to Albany Police about the police investigation. He said, "No comment." We asked who do we complain to when we have a complaint against Police. He said, "I acknowledge 'your existence'. No comment."

Nyungar Traditional Owner and Curtin University Indigenous Research Fellow, Associate Professor Len Collard simply said, "This matter needs to be taken seriously. A young man's life has been destroyed and the people who did this need to be held responsible for their actions and therefore they need to be held to account."

Sydney's Indigenous Social Justice President, Elder Ray Jackson said, "When are the WA cops going to realise that they too are responsible to the laws of the land as is everyone else? Surely, the outrage over the death of Mr Ward, the tasering of Kevin Spratt, along with so many other abuses quite clearly shows corrupt actions will not be tolerated, and that mistakes and acts of bastardry will be paid for."

Recently, an Albany Police Officer was twice caught on the same day by 'speed camera' reaching driving speeds of 140 kmph. However he is yet to be dismissed. You cannot apply to the Police Academy without at least a twelve months clean driving record.

The Bellotti Support Group is calling for compensation for Rex Jnr, in addition to insurance payments that are yet to occur, and for a framework of support mechanisms, and for some accountability for what may or may not have occurred on the night in question, for the truth of what did occur, for an external non-police investigation of the involved police officers and of the subsequent police investigations.

The Bellotti Support Group spokespeople have assured they will not desist from educating the wider community of the indiscriminate discriminations faced by Aboriginal peoples and that they will hold Public Meetings in Perth (August 11) and in Albany, and that they will campaign to the Government of Western Australia in the seeking of some justice, remedies and closure for the Bellotti family. The Group stands steadfast in the belief that Rex Jnr did not have to be a death in custody for justice to be sought, and for them to stand by him, and that they will campaign loud and clear, far and wide in the name of Rex Jnr and all those who suffer injustices because of the wells of prejudices and stereotypes and in which their origins-of-thinking are inter-generationally 'old', from days when racism was matter-of-fact and delivered with “pride”.

Justice does not come for everyone and more often than not it does not come for those who are the object of prejudices, discrimination and racism. However even though there is no CCTV footage to incite some expeditious justice, to raise the 'alarm', or to ensure remedies and closure this family and the folk of the Bellotti Support Group have no choice but to seek a sliver of justice sadly inch by inch.

From GLW issue 890

Comments

Accountability for WAPOL lying to the media?

Letters to the editor August 13, 2011

Bellotti supporters not going away

As a member of the public and a human being, I am disgusted and angered by Superintendent Dene Leekong’s deliberately misleading comments and completely fabricated statements on the case of Rex Bellotti Jnr in the July 26 Albany Advertiser.

Leekong said that the WA police did “everything they could” to investigate the case after the 15-year-old Aboriginal youth was hit by a police car in 2009.

That’s a lie.

The Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) report into the accident remarks that the investigating Sergeant relied largely on Mr. Bellotti Snr and another person to bring witnesses to him, rather than proactively seeking them out himself.

Is that how an investigating sergeant or the WA police department do “everything they can”, asking the parent of the victim, who was not even present when his son was run down by two members of the WA Police in their 4WD, to bring witnesses to them?

Again from the CCC report (2009): “The Commission is of the view that it is not appropriate, nor sufficient, to wait for witnesses to seek out such assistance. It is clear that in this instance Sergeant L did not adhere to Police policy on this issue”.

Superintendent Leekong, as a member of the WA Police, surely would not lie or release false information to the media, so perhaps I should reread the CCC report.

Do phrases such as “insufficient checks and balances” and the fact that the WA Police has “instigated changes in the way investigations are now dealt with at the District level” endorse the efforts of those officers involved in the Bellotti case to any degree?

Superintendent Leekong, thank you for exposing the reality for many of those involved with the WA Police. Through your deceit and arrogance, you have provided an additional platform for us to speak the truth.

I hope that the people of Albany now know that their Superintendent has no qualms telling outright lies and feigning offense, when he and his department are the most vile and offensive abusers of social justice and human rights.

Justice for Rex Bellotti Junior will be afforded to him and his family. One of the Police memos regarding the Bellotti case, attained under a freedom of information request, states “hopefully we can get rid of this”.

The Bellotti Support Group would like to inform those WA police officers that we are never going away.

Shilo Harrison,
Bellotti Support Group coordinator, WA.

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