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Cameron Doomadgee finding a tragedy, says family

DOWNLOAD a copy of the findings HERE


By Evan Schwarten From: AAP May 14, 2010

A QUEENSLAND coroner's inability to deliver a definitive finding on the death in custody of an Aboriginal man was a "tragedy", the deceased's family says.

Mr Doomadgee died on the floor of a cell at the Palm Island Watchhouse on November 19, 2004 following his arrest for drunkenness.

Lawyer Andrew Boe, representing the family of Cameron Doomadgee, said the actions of police had forced Coroner Brian Hine to issue an "open finding" into his death.

Mr Hine said the unreliability of witnesses meant he was unable to say whether the injuries suffered by Mr Doomadgee during a struggle with Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley were inflicted intentionally or accidentally. He said the injuries, a burst portal vein and a liver cleaved in two, could have been caused by Sen Sgt Hurley falling on top of Mr Doomadgee or by the 115kg officer "dropping a knee" into his prisoner.

However, Mr Hines found Sen Sgt Hurley had been angry about the resistance shown by Mr Doomadgee during his arrest, and had punched him in the face and abused him.

The coroner also found police witnesses at the station had colluded to protect Sen Sgt Hurley.

Mr Boe said the officers should "hang their heads in shame".

"This is a tragedy not just for the family, but for all of us, to think that this level of investigation went so badly because of the specific conniving conduct of police officers" he said.

"This judgment documents an abysmal failure of duty of care to a man in custody and abysmal investigation by police."

The inquest held fresh hearings in March after Queensland's Court of Appeal upheld a decision to overturn the 2006 findings into the matter by Deputy Coroner Christine Clements.

Sen Sgt Hurley was acquitted of Mr Doomadgee's manslaughter by a Townsville jury in 2007.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/cameron-doomadgee-fin...

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Mulrunji Doomadgee tip-off spoils case

Jamie Walker From: The Australian May 15, 2010

THE investigation into the 2004 death in custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee was stripped of credibility because of a "perception of collusion" between local detectives and the policeman who caused the Aborigine's fatal injuries.

But Queensland Deputy Chief Magistrate Brian Hine, delivering the findings of the third coronial inquest into the affair, found yesterday there was no evidence that Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley had meant to inflict the injuries that killed Doomadgee.

The open finding on whether his death was accidental or deliberately caused by Sergeant Hurley dashed the family's professed hopes to finally secure "closure".

Doomadgee, 36, died after he was arrested while drunk on Palm Island, off Townsville, on November 19, 2004, creating such outrage in the community that people rioted a week later.

The original inquest was abandoned when Queensland State Coroner Michael Barnes stood down to avoid a perception of bias while the findings of the second inquiry, blaming Sergeant Hurley, were quashed after he was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and assault.

Mr Hine reported yesterday that Sergeant Hurley had been tipped off about crucial witness accounts by the police who carried out the initial investigation into the death in custody, creating the perception of collusion.

The involvement of detectives who either knew Sergeant Hurley or were from the local district command was unsatisfactory, inappropriate and undermined the credibility of the investigation, Mr Hine said.

And it was probable Sergeant Hurley had lied in giving evidence that he had not realised he had fallen on Doomadgee after the Aborigine punched him and they had scuffled in the doorway of the lock-up.

But there was no evidence to support a finding that Sergeant Hurley had made a conscious choice to land on Doomadgee with such force that it ruptured his liver and smashed four ribs.

Mr Hine said the crush injury was probably caused by the shoulder or hip of the tall and heavily built policeman, who must have known he had fallen on Doomadgee.

"It may be possible that the exact manner of a violent and complicated fall may not be remembered by one of the participants," Mr Hine reported.

"However, it seems improbable that he did not realise that he had fallen on to Mulrunji at all.

"The severe force required to cause the injuries spoken of by all the medical experts convinces me that Hurley must have realised that he had indeed fallen on to the deceased rather than directly on to a concrete floor."

Mr Hine found, however, that an enraged Sergeant Hurley had punched Doomadgee three times in the face before dragging him into the cell in which he died from internal bleeding. At this point, the Aborigine was a "dead weight", the coroner reported.

"The deceased died of fatal injuries which resulted from some force to the abdomen . . . either as the deceased and Christopher Hurley fell into the Palm Island watchhouse or by deliberate actions of Hurley in the few seconds after they landed," Mr Hine found.

"But it is not possible to ascertain whether the force was deliberately inflicted or accidentally suffered. The four fractured ribs, liver laceration and portal vein rupture occurred as a result of this single injury."

In addition to criticising the police investigation, Mr Hine questioned why the independent Crime and Misconduct Commission had not taken immediate charge of the death in custody investigation, and recommended that it should be resourced and empowered to do so in future.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/mulrunji-doomadgee-tip-off-s...


Perception of police collusion hurt Mulrunji Doomadgee inquiry: Brian Hine

Jamie Walker From: The Australian May 14, 2010

THE investigation into the 2004 death in custody of Palm Islander Mulrunji Doomadgee was stripped of credibility because of a "perception of collusion" between the police called in to conduct it and the officer who caused the Aborigine's fatal injuries.

But Queensland deputy chief magistrate Brian Hine, delivering the findings of the third coronial inquest into the affair, today found there was no evidence that Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley meant to inflict the internal injuries that killed Doomadgee.

The open finding on whether Doomadgee's death was accidental or deliberately caused by Hurley was denounced as a “tragedy” by the family's lawyer, Andrew Boe.

The Queensland Police Service said Mr Hines's findings had far-reaching implications, but pointed out there had been no criticism of the 50 investigations into deaths in custody carried out since Doomadgee's in the watchhouse at Palm Island, off Townsville, five years ago.

The original inquest into Doomadgee's death was abandoned when Queensland state coroner Michael Barnes stood down to avoid a perception of bias while the findings of the second inquiry, blaming Hurley, was quashed after he was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and assault.

Mr Hine found that Hurley had been tipped off by police investigating the death about crucial witness accounts, creating the perception of collusion.

And it was probable that Hurley had lied when he told the earlier inquests and his trial that he had not realised he had fallen on the Aborigine as they scuffled in the lock-up, inflicting catastrophic internal injuries.

But there was no evidence to support a finding that Hurley had deliberately injured the heavily intoxicated Aborigine.

Hurley's denials that he had fallen on Doomadgee were explained by the policeman's initial lack of knowledge about the cause of Doomadgee' death and his “fear of consequences” from the local community if he was seen as responsible, Mr Hine found.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/perception-of-police-collusi...


Police colluded to protect Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee – coroner

QUEENSLAND police colluded to protect an officer who caused the fatal injuries to an Aboriginal man in his custody, a coroner has found.

However, Coroner Brian Hine said the unreliability of police and Aboriginal witnesses meant he was not able to make a definitive finding on the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee.

Mr Doomadgee died on the floor of a watch-house cell on Palm Island in November 2004.

Mr Hine accepted the fatal injuries suffered by Mr Doomadgee - a burst portal vein and a liver which was cleaved in two - were caused by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley. However he was unable to rule whether the injuries were inflicted deliberately or accidentally.

Mr Hine said the injuries could have been caused by Sen Sgt Hurley accidentally falling on top of Mr Doomadgee or by the officer "dropping a knee into his torso".

He also accepted Sen Sgt Hurley had punched Mr Doomadgee in the face and abused him during his attempts to force him into the police station.

Result a 'tragedy'

The coroner's inability to deliver a definitive finding on the death in custody of an Aboriginal man was a "tragedy", the deceased's family says.

Lawyer Andrew Boe, representing the family of Cameron Doomadgee, said the officers should "hang their heads in shame".

"This is a tragedy not just for the family, but for all of us, to think that this level of investigation went so badly because of the specific conniving conduct of police officers" he told reporters in Townsville.

"This judgment documents an abysmal failure of duty of care to a man in custody and abysmal investigation by police."

The inquest held fresh hearings in March after Queensland's Court of Appeal upheld a decision to overturn the 2006 findings into the matter by Deputy Coroner Christine Clements.

Sen Sgt Hurley was acquitted of Mr Doomadgee's manslaughter by a Townsville jury in 2007.

Timeline in the Palm Island case:

2004

* November 19: Cameron Doomadgee, 36, dies in custody at Palm Island police station after being arrested for being drunk and causing a nuisance.

2006

* September: Deputy Coroner Christine Clements finds Sen Sgt Chris Hurley responsible for Doomadgee's fatal injuries.

* December 14: Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare determines Sen Sgt Hurley has no case to answer and the death was a tragic accident.

2007

* January 26: Former NSW chief justice Sir Laurence Street reviews case and advises there is enough evidence to prosecute Sen Sgt Hurley, who is officially suspended.

* February 5: Sen Sgt Hurley faces Supreme Court charged with manslaughter and assault.

* June 20: Jury acquits Hurley on manslaughter and assault charges.

* November 2: Cameron Doomadgee's widow Tracey Twaddle and his five sisters launch a $900,000 civil lawsuit against Sen Sgt Hurley and Queensland police.

2008

* October 9: Sen Sgt Hurley launches an appeal in Townsville District Court to have the deputy coroner's findings overturned.

* December 18: District Court Judge Bob Pack sets aside deputy coroner's inquest findings, saying medical evidence did not support the ruling, and orders inquest reopened.

2009

* June 16: Court of Appeal says Judge Pack is correct in ordering inquest be reopened, but says judge's reasoning in ordering findings be set aside is "flawed".

2010

* March 8-9: Reopened inquest before Deputy Chief Magistrate Brian Hine holds hearings on Palm Island.

* March 10-12: Inquest moves to Townsville; Sen Sgt Hurley apologises to Doomadgee family but maintains he did not regret his actions on the day.

* April 8: Peter Davis SC, representing Queensland's attorney-general, urges Magistrate Hine to find Doomadgee's death was the result of a deliberate act of force.

* May 6: Media reports indicate a leaked copy of a CMC report into the actions of police investigating the death in custody will recommend disciplinary action against seven officers.

* May 14: Magistrate Hine rules that police colluded to protect Sen Sgt Hurley.

Source: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/national/police-colluded-to-protect-s...