Charge police for Briscoe death in custody

Terrance Briscoe died in police custody in Alice Springs in January.

The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney released the statement below on June 28.

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The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) is calling for charges to be laid against police in the Terrance Briscoe death is custody case, supporting calls from the family.

Family spokesperson Patricia Morton-Thomas says that family are confused by the double standard of the legal system. That Police are able to break the law, even captured on CCTV footage, and are still not charged for their offences.

Morton-Thomas has also warned that there will be more deaths in custody in the NT if the “Stronger Futures” legislation is passed through the Senate today.

Briscoe died in custody in the Alice Springs police station on January 5. The coronial inquest into his death concluded on Friday June 23.

CCTV footage played during the inquest shows the brutal treatment suffered by Briscoe at the hands of Constable Evans. Briscoe was then dumped face down in a cell and given no medical treatment for four hours before being discovered dead.

Numerous police apologised to the family through the coronial hearing, conceding that the death would not have occurred if they had taken proper care of Briscoe.

The Stop the Intervention Collective in Sydney (STICS) will join a protest against deaths in custody and police brutality being held on Thursday June 28, to press the demand for charges to be laid immediately.

Morton-Thomas said: “The Police force are responsible for upholding the law, wearing a badge should not give immunity from the law. The Police need to lay charges on their members where it is clear they have broken the law. In my nephew’s case, he was clearly assaulted by Constable Evans. They need to be punished for breaking the law like everyone else.

“If my nephew had not been taken into police custody, he would be alive today. At the very least we need to see appropriate charges laid against any Police Officer who abuses the powers afforded to them, Evans assaulted my nephew. Aboriginal people are sitting in gaol for things far less serious than what he did to my young fella.

“The government also needs to be held accountable and to back away from policies that are killing our people. My nephew was a victim of the NT intervention. Our culture is treated as worthless and our lives are treated as worthless. Alice Springs has become a police state for Aboriginal people.

“If ‘Stronger Futures’ passes the parliament today there will be more of our people going to jail and more deaths in custody,” concluded Ms Morton-Thomas.

Paddy Gibson from the Stop the Intervention Collective said Aboriginal rights campaigners across the country would fight for justice for Briscoe: “There has only been one example of any officer being charged for a black death in custody in Australian history — Chris Hurley on Palm Island.

“These charges were only laid after massive street demonstrations and outrage across civil society and even then, he was acquitted by an all white jury. We can’t let this happen in this case — justice for Terrance Briscoe must become a central demand for progressive people everywhere.

“Under the Intervention, the oppression being suffered by Aboriginal people at the hands of the justice system is out of control. Briscoe spent much of his recent life dodging police. He had been placed in ‘protective custody’ 31 times. There is no evidence that he should have been taken in to custody on the night he died. People are being locked up simply for being black.

“Despite having committed no crimes, Briscoe’s party were fingerprinted and he was denied treatment at the hospital because police feared he would ‘run away’.

“There has been a 50% increase in indigenous incarceration since 2007. The NT Prison Officer’s Association has described conditions in the grossly overcrowded Alice Springs gaol as ‘third world’. And now revelations are emerging of indefinite detention for mentally ill, unconvicted Aboriginal inmates.

“If no one is held accountable in the Briscoe case, these abuses of power will only get worse,” concluded Gibson.

[STICS will join an Indigenous Social Justice Association rally against police brutality and deaths in custody today — Thursday June 28, 4.30pm at the NSW Ombudsman's office cnr George and Bathurst st, Sydney.]