14 October 2014


14 October 2014

A Custody Notification Service (CNS) in WA will save lives, and the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA (ALSWA) is confident that the Federal Government will see its merit and implement this service outside of NSW.

ALSWA has advocated strongly for a CNS to operate in WA and spoke out strongly against last year’s de-funding of the CNS service run by the ALS (ACT/NSW). Thankfully the service now operates again.

“One life lost in custody, is one too many and we implore Senator Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs to provide this vital service nationally” said ALSWA CEO Dennis Eggington.

ALSWA said that the latest tragedy of a young woman dying in custody in the State’s Pilbara region, followed a long line of deaths in custody. “One must question whether a CNS could have avoided this tragic death” said Mr. Eggington.

A recommendation from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, a CNS would enable ALSWA to provide a 24/7 phone service for Aboriginal people in custody, with lawyers on call, and stringent procedures in place ensuring that lines of communication are kept open.

ALSWA said that this life saving service must be properly and separately funded to successfully operate 24 hours per day 7 days a week. “Clearly we don’t have the capacity to do this now, and we certainly wouldn’t want anyone suggesting that a legislative requirement to notify the ALSWA alone is sufficient” said Mr. Eggington.

ALSWA has written to Senator Scullion and urges the Government to implement a Custody Notification Service in WA to ensure that all steps are taken to reduce the chances of further deaths in custody.

Definition of the Custody Notification Service on the ALSWA NSW/ACT website: The Custody Notification Service is a telephone advice and well-check service operated by the ALS. By law, the police must contact the ALS every time they detain an Aboriginal person in a NSW police station. The Aboriginal person is given the opportunity to talk to a qualified ALS lawyer. They are advised about their rights in custody and their legal situation. The lawyers also find out if the person is OK. The lawyer can talk to police on behalf of the detained person and can also contact family and friends.