Qld cops close ranks, stall justice

July 10, 2010
NAIDOC march in Melbourne, July 9. Photo: Sue Bolton

Aboriginal activists and supporters rallied outside Queensland Supreme Court on July 6 to demand justice for Mulrunji Doomadgee, his family and the people of Palm Island.

The crowd protested against an action in the court by the Queensland Police Union (QPU) "to stop their six police mates from being charged with serious offences over the Palm Island police cover-up”, Aboriginal community leader and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Sam Watson said on calling the action.

“These police were named by the CMC [Criminal Justice Commission] in its report on the Palm Island death in custody [of Mulrunji in November 2004]. These police have a case to answer and they must be charged.

“No police officer is above the law. The QPU does not respect due legal process.”

On June 18, the CMC handed the findings of its report into the police investigation following Mulrunji’s death to the state government. It criticised the police force for a culture of covering up mistakes. It explicitly criticised the police involved in investigating the circumstances of Mulrunji’s death.

The CMC gave police commissioner Bob Atkinson 14 days to outline what disciplinary action he would take against the officers involved. The QPU sought an injunction to stop Atkinson taking any action against the police. In a bizarre legal twist, late on July 6 Atkinson joined forces with the QPU and sought — and was granted — an injunction against himself, the Australian said that day. It meant he was “restrained” from meeting the CMC’s deadline.

Judgement on whether Atkinson could take action against the police officers was delayed.

Meanwhile, Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey has been the target of police intimidation. The July 6 Townsville Bulletin reported his family home was searched by officers without a warrant.

“Lacey said three officers came to his door yesterday looking for his 13-year-old son over an incident that was alleged to have occurred last month”, the article said.

"He said the police refused to tell him why they wanted to question his son and suspected they searched his home to intimidate him for being outspoken on the CMC report and investigation into Mulrunji's death.”

“I don't need to put up with that sort of intimidation and if the Palm Island police service is on a crusade to intimidate people then I won't have a bar of it.”

Watson told Green Left Weekly: “Revelations that millions of dollars of Queensland taxpayers' funds have been spent on this entire process of the Mulrunji case just underline the fact that after all this, not one person has been found responsible for his death.

“This system of ‘justice’ is not accountable to the people: it serves, not the public, but the Queensland police.

"This case shows that no one, and especially Aboriginal people, is safe. People can be arrested, bashed and die in police custody and no one is held accountable.

“We need to take action on the streets, in the courts and politically. [Seargent Chris] Hurley [who was acquitted by an all-white jury for Mulrunji’s manslaughter] should be tried again, and every police officer involved in the cover-up should be charged, either with perjury or other relevant crimes."

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