Another Aboriginal person dies in custody

Gracelyn Smallwood.

The family of an Aboriginal man, Herbert Mitchell, who died after being taken to Townsville’s police watchhouse on April 18, is calling for answers from the current police investigation and coroner's report.

Aboriginal activist and Townsville resident Gracelyn Smallwood said: “The Mitchell family is in a state of shock and mourning at the sudden and unexpected death of their family member.

“The family has no clear information except that he was picked up by police for public drunkenness and within four hours he was on life support in hospital.”

Mitchell, 50, was initially taken to a halfway house, but was later transferred to the police watch-house at about midday, after allegedly becoming aggressive.

Three-and-a-half hours later he was rushed to hospital where he spent 8.5 hours on life support.

Halfway houses, or diversionary centres, were set up around the country in response to one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991. The aim was to keep intoxicated persons out of police cells.

Mitchell’s death brings the number of Aboriginal people who have died in police custody since the commission to 270.
Smallwood said Mitchell’s family is concerned that, despite the growing numbers of Aboriginal people dying in police custody, there has never been anyone held accountable for their deaths.

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