ALSWA hopes report will lead to Aboriginal people being In Safe Custody
2 December 2013
An Inquiry into custodial arrangements in police lock-up has validated concerns held by the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA (ALSWA) for many years.
“We endorse the findings and recommendations of the “In Safe Custody” report and hope that these recommendations, along with those from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) will be implemented once and for all. It’s unacceptable 30 years on from the tragic Roebourne death of young John Pat, that questions are still being raised as to one’s safety in a WA lock-up” said ALSWA CEO Dennis Eggington.
ALSWA’s submission to the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee was cited heavily in the report and the state’s peak Aboriginal legal service provider hopes this report is finally the document that signals change in addressing the urgency of this situation.
“There are such simple steps that can be taken, such as providing ALSWA with a properly funded phone service for Aboriginal people to contact for legal advice if they’ve been taken into custody. Our people are so over-policed and over-represented behind bars, so it also makes good sense that the WA Police expand their Cultural training for recruits and sworn police officers (R 19, 20)” said Mr. Eggington, also expressing the importance of the Aboriginal Visitor’s Scheme having access to all Aboriginal people in all lock-ups.
Whilst the report contains many recommendations relating to Aboriginal justice issues, there are also other key recommendations of note, including:
Recommendation 17: that the Minister for Corrective Services initiates amendments to the Inspector of Custodial Services Act 2003 to enable the Inspector of Custodial Services to assume oversight responsibility for all police lock-ups in Western Australia and that consideration is given to appropriate resourcing of the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services to undertake this function.
Recommendation 3: that the Minister for Police initiates amendments to the Criminal Investigations Act 2006 to ensure that detainees in lock-ups receive timely access to legal services, and in particular ensure there is immediate notification of, and access to, legal services by Aboriginal detainees; and make evidence inadmissible in proceedings in court where a detainee’s right to legal access has been deliberately suspended.
Recommendation 4: that, given the unmet demand, the State Government supplements the funding that ALSWA currently receives from the Federal Government.
ALSWA is also supportive of the WA Police providing 24/7 medical coverage at the Perth Watchhouse and improving arrangements for on-call medical assistance (including mental health) at all lock-ups (R1), and for the Premier to expedite consideration and resourcing of the development of a national Indigenous interpreters framework through Western Australia’s participation in the Council of Australian Governments (R8)
“The “In Safe Custody” report (www.parliament.wa.gov.au/cdjsc) highlights many concerns held by ALSWA for many years, and we commend all involved in contributing to this important report, which has the capacity to put an end to unnecessary injury or loss of life within police lock-ups” said Mr. Eggington.