Media Release – National Deaths in Custody Database

8th December 2020       

Justice Action has recently gained support from the Australian Research and Development Commons to work with AustLII in creating a database dedicated to National Free Access Coronial Findings, Recommendations & Responses. This database was developed in response to the death of David Dungay within Sydney’s Long Bay gaol in 2015. David Dungay was restrained by six guards for simply eating biscuits, and he died soon after his repeated cries of ‘I can’t breathe’. 

The utter disregard of David’s pleas for help and negligence of his vulnerability demonstrate the unlawful approaches of corrective staff toward incarcerated people, and the subsequent lack of accountability for his death highlights the inadequacy of current mechanisms to investigate and deliver justice to families and communities of the deceased. The Dungay family has repeatedly expressed their frustration at the inadequacy of the criminal justice system, so as a testament to David’s memory this database will be instrumental in guiding public policy, changing the law and holding people accountable to ensure avoidable deaths in custody like this do not continue to occur. 

With AustLII, this database will provide free access to coronial findings with recommendations available in digital form from all Australian jurisdictions in one central location. Given AustLII is one of the largest providers of legal resources on the internet, awareness will heighten regarding the issues surrounding deaths in custody, bringing it to the forefront as a grave problem in Australia’s criminal justice system. It will also gather together and link responses made by agencies to coronial recommendations. Some earlier findings with recommendations that only exist in paper form, will be digitised and added to the collection. These resources will then be searchable and cross-indexed to the relevant legislation and case law through citation mining using data-mining, which will provide an easy and accessible way to search for coronial findings and recommendations.

This database dedicated to National Free Access Coronial Findings, Recommendations & Responses will undoubtedly help save lives and will improve coronial systems nationally. 

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