Death in Custody is the ultimate failure in the duty of care that is incumbent upon police and corrective services.
Justice Action does not per se maintain a facilitator with specific responsibilities for Deaths in Custody-related issues. Rather, we recognise all deaths in custody, under any circumstance, as the ultimate failure in the duty of care that is incumbent upon police and corrective services to fulfill. The immediacy of response required when a death in custody occurs is a JA group responsibility.
We work in close alliance particularly with the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee of New South Wales. Despite the clear mandate of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the investment of hundreds of millions of government dollars, the deaths continue uninterrupted.
The sharp increase in the numbers of Aboriginal deaths in custody indicates that the recommendations of the Royal Commission are not being properly implemented and continues to reflect the grossly disproportionate representation of indigenous peoples within the criminal justice system.
Five such deaths occurred in Ausralia during the first month of 1997. Four took place in New South Wales; three involved the police and two, the prisons.
Justice Action is currently pursuing numerous death in custody cases.
21 April 1997
Recommendation 41 of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody defines a death in custody as follows:
(i) the death wherever occurring of a person who is in prison custodyor police custody or detention as a juvenile;
(ii) the death wherever occurring of a person whose death is caused or contributed to by traumatic injuries sustained, or by lack of proper care whilst in such custody or detention;
(iii) the death wherever occurring of a person who dies or is fatally injured in the process of police or prison officers attempting to detain that person; and
(iv) the death wherever occurring of a person who dies or is fatally injured in the process of that person escaping or attempting to escape from prison custody or police custody or juvenile detention.
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1980 – 1995)
Warning: Readers should note that there is mention of Aboriginal persons who are deceased. JA strives to observe cultural necessities, particularly in naming their ‘living names’. We offer only respect for the deceased person and his/her family.
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee is an Indigenous community organisation monitoring the treatment of Aboriginal people in police and justice custody. A main focus of the Watch Committee is to monitor any deaths in custody, including police pursuits, and any breaches of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Recommendations.
Statistics for Deaths in Custody