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.
Our mandate includes casework for those at risk and extends to juvenile justice detention centres.
Room 34, 1st Floor, Trades Hall, 4 Goulburn Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Mail to: PO Box 65, Broadway NSW 2007
Phone (24 hours): (02) 9264 9895, Fax: (02) 9264 9916
Freecall: 1 800 803 393
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. Our mandate includes casework for those at risk and extends to juvenile justice detention centres.
The Watch Committee was formed in June 1987 following concerns and voices about the rate of Aboriginal deaths in custody, the circumstances about the deaths and the vague explanations offered by police and prison officials. – from the Watch Committee newsletter
- Murder by Neglect – As Usual – 10 February 1997
- Five More Deaths Pre Summit – 3 February 1997
Media Release 10.02.97
Murder by Neglect – As Usual
The tragic death of James Alexander BRINDLE began on Thursday, February 6 when he was placed in a one-out cell environment whereby he was found hanging by a shoelace at 1305. He died when the life support machine was switched off on Sunday morning at Prince of Wales Hospital, said Ray Jackson. Jimmy was 31 years old and the father of six children aged from 2 to 12.
His death was totally tragic because custodial staff cynically ignored the Royal Commission Recommendations. Jimmy tried twice to be put with, firstly, the Aboriginal delegate (whose job it is to mentor incoming inmates) and secondly, his cousin. Another cousin was also available to participate in the care and control of Jimmy who was known to be stressed out. The Night Senior at the Reception Induction Centre at Long Bay Gaol obviously believed that he knew best, and placed Jimmy in a two-out situation with a non-Aboriginal person on Monday, February 3. Jimmy was coming down off heroin and possibly marijuana.
As is usual for new prisoners with withdrawals Jimrny was cocktailed by Corrections Health staff at the Remand Induction Centre. It has been claimed that he was given Largactyl and Valium, also possibly Methadone. Whatever, the cocktail was enough to make him unsteady on his feet to the point where he had to be assisted to his cell on that fateful day. In a one-out situation.
Many questions need to be answered. His autopsy was done this afternoon and the Watch Committee will further investigate this tragic death to ascertain how?, and why? – and possibly who? Whether the death was murder – or murder by neglect? As usual. This bring~ the New South Wales total for this year to four in less than six weeks. Two for the police and two for Corrective Services/Corrections Health. This was the New South Wales total for all of’96. Two further deaths have occurred in Western Australia making the total 6 for this year already. We need proper discussions, not discussions by Government appointment! For further information please contact Ray Jackson on (02) 9264 9895.
Media Release 03. 02.97
Five More Deaths Pre Summit
Five more deaths incustody since 27.12.96 now brings the post May ’89 total to 115. In a space of three weeks over the holiday season five young men are with us no more. Three deaths occurred involving the police and two involved prisons. Four deaths occurred in New South Wales and one in Western Australia. This brings the N.S.W. post May ’89 total to 35, 50 since 1.1.80.
Jeffery James Shakespeare was 27 when he died on 30.12.96 as a result of a police pursuit in a stolen car. We do not condone the crime of car theft but there needs to be a better way to address the problem than high speed pursuits that endanger not only the public, the (usually) untrained driver at high speeds and of course the police, who are trained. Some years ago Brad Hazzard chaired a Commission looking at high speed puruits by the police which came up with several practical solutions. None were adopted by the N.S.W. Police Service.
Craig Leslie Conway died in Goulburn Gaol of a suspected unidentified drug overdose at 29 on 2.1.97. Hie death is still under investigation and several areas of concern are being looked at. In W.A. on Friday 10.1.97, Peter Irwin Cameron, 36, collapsed and died hours after being released from prison on a special home leave pass. We await the post mortem outcome to find out why he died.
January 11th led to the death of Graham Paul Smith, 19, who was hit by a train whilst running away from police after an altercation outside a Lidcombe hotel. We await further details from the police.
Geoffrey John Fernando, 17, was also the victim of a high speed chase (lOOkph) in a stolen car. He died after the car hit a pole at Newtown on January 13th. He was not the driver.
The Watch Committee intends to call an urgent meeting with Commissioner Peter Ryan to further look at these incidents, as our death rates for high speed pursuits are climbing to the intolerable levels of those in W.A.
We believe these deaths, and, sadly, more to come, are totally avoidable. Unfortunately we also believe that the National Deaths in Custody Summits arranged by Senator Herron are wrongly structured and will give no positive outcomes. Rather it will merely attempt to shift the blame, first to the States/Territories and ultimately to Indigenous peoples themselves.
For further information please contact Ray Jackson on (02) 9264 9895.