November 19th 2004 - 5 Years on and still no Justice

Cameron 'Mulrunji' Doomadge was brutally murdered by police whilst in custody on Palm Island on November 19, 2004.

Police shouldn't have led Death probe

Michael McKenna | The Australian | November 21, 2009

Robert Needham's decision to let police lead the probe into the mishandling of the 2004 death-in-custody investigation of Mulrunji Doomadgee was insensitive to Palm Islanders and irresponsible. And, not surprisingly, it blew up in his face.

Needham, the chairman of Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission, yesterday admitted the 266-page police report -- written by two of the Queensland Police Service's top cops -- could not be relied upon, and that the CMC had had to go back to "ground zero" to get to the truth of the case. Five years after the tragic death, Palm Islanders are still waiting for some semblance of justice.

Needham should have known better than to follow the usual form and hand a probe into police to the service itself, for the CMC to review. Over the past few years, and particularly this year, there has been mounting evidence of a culture of cover-up in a police service that has largely cleaned itself up after the Fitzgerald inquiry 20 years ago.

Labor governments, the parliamentary watchdog and opposition have remained silent.

Needham yesterday partially blamed the Doomadgee debacle on limited resources, but it is not about money or staff.

The real danger lies in the seemingly wilting will of some to fight a return to the secrecy and club mentality of power during the dark days of the past.

Qld's CMC, Police & Palm Island

Andrew Bartlett, The Stump | | November 19, 2009

One of the most telling aspects of the terrible injustices involved in the death in police custody of Palm Islandman Mulrunji Doomagee is that, five years on, there has been no public investigation and report into the roles of various police played in investigating the events leading up to, during and following the death.

It now seems likely that a report from Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) into the way police dealt with that death in custody will be finished by the end of the year. Precisely what is made public and what happens from there is still unknown, but the CMC's credibility will be stake almost as much as that of the Queensland Police service.

There have been growing criticisms of a perceived ineffectiveness of the CMC, as well as allegations that elements within the CMC may be too close to the government and the police. A report today in The Australian that the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Commissioner, Alan MacSporran, has “accepted a brief to represent the Queensland Police Service at the second coronial inquest into Doomadgee's death, to be held in February” will do little to quell those concerns.

It is hard not to perceive a justice system operating on double standards when Aboriginal people accused of being involved in a riot on Palm Island, after an initial official announcement that Mulrunji's death was accidental, were quickly arrested and charged, while so little has happened in response to the death itself and the clear indications of malpractice in the way police investigated it.

There has been more than sufficient evidence provided to the first inquest, as well as at the trials of some of the accused rioters, to warrant a major investigation. The people of Palm Island, and the many people of Queensland and beyond who support them, are still waiting. Let's see what the CMC delivers.

Five years on, Doomadgee death investigators facing discipline

Michael McKenna and Tony Koch | The Australian | November 19, 2009

Senior officers who investigated the 2004 death in custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee are expected to face disciplinary action following a damning Crime and Misconduct Commission report that accuses Queensland police of "protecting their own".

On the fifth anniversary of Doomadgee's watchhouse death, which sparked riots in the Aboriginal community off Townsville, the yet-to-be finalised CMC report has condemned police handling of the initial investigation and rejected the findings of an internal police review into their handling of the case.

The long-overdue report was ordered in 2006 after Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements slammed the death-in-custody investigation as lacking "transparency, objectivity and independence".

Police handed a 266-page report to the CMC last year recommending only "managerial guidance" of the four police investigators - two of whom were friends of Palm Island senior sergeant Chris Hurley, who was charged and acquitted in 2007 of Doomadgee's manslaughter.

In an explosive revelation, Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Commissioner Alan MacSporran confirmed yesterday he had accepted a brief to represent the Queensland Police Service at the second coronial inquest into Doomadgee's death, to be held in February.

Mr MacSporran will appear for the QPS at tomorrow's inquest directions hearings in Townsville.

Neither he nor the parliamentary crime and misconduct committee have initiated any action in response to the repeated public complaints about delays in investigating Doomadgee's death.

Mr MacSporran yesterday denied any conflict of interest in representing the QPS. "I have not been asked to investigate any matters in respect of this issue, so I have no conflict," he said.

Indigenous leaders and lawyers have accused the CMC and police of double standards over the five-year wait, with rioters jailed within months of the violence, and officers who stared down the mob given bravery awards last year.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service chief executive Shane Duffy said Queensland's indigenous community had waited too long for the investigation to be finalised. "Why the delay if there is nothing to hide and nothing to fear?" Mr Duffy asked.

During the first inquest, Ms Clements was told the Townsville Regional Crime Co-ordinator Warren Webber had appointed two of Sergeant Hurley's friends - Palm Island detective Darren Robinson and Townsville-based detective Raymond Kitching - to investigate Doomadgee's death.

The detectives were picked up at the Palm Island airport by Sergeant Hurley, and then shared a meal and beers with the officer at his home on the night of Doomadgee's death, on November 19.

The inquest was told that the officers had failed to secure the scene where the injury that claimed Doomadgee's life occurred, and that the officers were involved in off-the-record discussions with Sergeant Hurley during their six-day investigation.

Another internal investigation into the case - specifically dealing with the $102,955 ex-gratia payment Sergeant Hurley received for property lost in the riots that followed Doomadgee's death, and an insurance claim he lodged for property valued at a third of that amount - is ongoing.