Family of Wayne Fella Morrison forces parliament to ban spit hoods

October 18, 2021
Justice for Fella rally in Adelaide in May. Photo: Renfrey Clarke

Since Wiradjuri, Kokatha and Wirangu man Wayne Fella Morrison died in police custody in 2016, his family has been fighting for justice, including for a ban on spit hoods.

Now, their campaign has forced the South Australian parliament to make spit hoods illegal for all ages. The Statues Amendment (Spit Hood Prohibition) Bill, also known as “Fella’s Bill,” was passed unanimously on September 22.

Morrison died after police forced him into a spit hood and put him in a prone position in the back of a transport van. At the time, he was on remand and had no criminal convictions.

A spit hood is a mask-like fabric hood covering an individual’s head and secured around the neck. Spit hoods are notoriously associated with police brutality.

Latoya Aroha Rule, Morrison’s sibling, described them as barbaric “torture devices” in Rolling Stone. She told Green Left in October that the ban came from an “extensive struggle against the state to see my brother, and others in similar circumstances he suffered, as worthy of life and justice”. The family is campaigning for national ban “so no other individual or family will be tortured”.

SA is the first state to criminalise spit hoods for people of all ages. Elsewhere, spit hoods are still legal for adults. They were banned for minors after footage of 17-year-old Dylan Voller wearing a spit hood was shown on ABC's Four Corners in 2016.

Fella’s bill gives the family some respite, after having endured five years of a coronial inquest into Morrison’s death in custody. It has been fraught with delays. The police officers involved in his death brought a legal challenge to the inquest saying they should not have to testify because they might “self-incriminate”.

The inquest concluded on October 1. However, the family is still waiting for the Coroner to hand down her findings.

[Follow the #JusticeForFella campaign here.]

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