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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

ISJA:Alice Black Deaths In Custody Inquest: Did Shackling Sick Prisoner Contribute?

The latest in a cruelly long list of Aboriginal Deaths in Custody has its Coronial sequel in Alice Springs. This time the bereaved and beleagured family have the assistance of pre-eminent Sydney Counsel and a supporting paralegal. Also batting for the Family is long term Indigenous Social Justice Association President Mr Ray Jackson whose organisation has a long history of working with and supporting Families of Deaths In Custody and Police Brutality victims. 

Media Release from ISJA: via Alex Johnson:

Alex Pademelon Johnson
Dear friends and comrades,

Ray Jackson is helping in a Death In Custody inquest in Alice Spring. This is the first press release read it and follow the others because is possible that the police and governments would try to stop the truth coming out. (Nothing new)




The President of the Association, Ray Jackson, has travelled from Sydney to Alice Springs to assist the Clarke Family at the Coronial Inquest of their loved one, Peter Alexander Clarke.

The Inquest begins on Tuesday the 15th of October 2013 and is listed for three days.

ISJA agrees with the family view that this is indeed an “Inquest with a Difference”.

The differences are brought about firstly by the family being represented at this Inquest by an eminent and well-respected private Barrister, Mr John E. Rowe of Windeyer Chambers in Sydney. Mr Rowe has represented families in Inquests over many years in a number of Jurisdictions.

Mr Rowe will be assisted by Paralegal Carl Hughes. Mr Hughes, who has worked with Mr Rowe on previous occasions, has extensive experience himself in Coronial Inquests, particularly Death in Custody matters throughout Australia.

Peter Clarke died tragically in the Intensive Care Unit of Alice Springs Hospital on 3 April 2012. He had been transferred to the hospital from the Alice Springs Goal on 19 March 2012 in a very serious medical condition.

Peter had been unwell in the goal for up to a week or more. He complained of a chronic cough and was in respiratory distress. The family, and ISJA, believes that Peter should have been transferred to hospital much sooner. Thus far, the Goal has not given the Family any explanation whatsoever for this delay.

We know that the Coroner will assist us in finding out why this delay occurred.

Soon after arriving at the Alice Springs Hospital, the doctors were forced to transfer Peter to the Intensive Care Unit where he was put into an induced coma with a tube down his throat.

Despite his comatose condition, the Northern Territory Goal System had him shackled to his bed.

Such an event caused great stress to those family members who were able to visit him only to find him shackled by his ankle to the hospital bed.

It is also believed that Peter was further traumatized and shamed by this unnecessary and inhumane practice.

The second difference in Peter’s Inquest is that the family strongly urge the N.T.Coroner to review the practice of shackling in N.T.Goals and in hospitals. The Goal system demands that all prisoners who are being treated in hospital have a 24 hour guard place on them and that they be shackled at all times.

This practice continues as in Peter’s case where he was in an induced coma. The reason given by the N.T.Goal system is that Inmates might escape.

This situation is just farcical.

Peter had received great support from the CAALAS Social Worker concerning his Parole Application. He was due to be released on 26 March 2012 but at that time he most certainly was not in a physical condition to have participated in any Parole process.

Sadly, Peter Clarke died on the 3rd of April 2012.

The third issue in this Inquest is for the Coroner to investigate why the ICU and other hospital staff did not immediately report Peter’s death to the N.T. Coroner as a “…reportable Death in Custody” within the meaning of the N.T.Coroner’s Act.

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Recommendations clearly shows that R 6 [Recommendation 6] identifies Peter as a Death in Custody.

Peter had been transferred to the hospital from the Goal and R 10 [Recommendation 10] states that it is the sole responsibility of the Goal Governor to make direct contact with the N.T Coroner’s Office in order to inform them of an Inmates Death.

In Peter’s case, this did not occur.

Instead, for a period of about seven days, Peter lay in the Hospital morgue because the responsible authorities were arguing as to the correct status of his death.

The ridiculous excuse was given that Peter had been granted his parole although in a comatose state.

Ray Jackson, at the Families request, wrote** to the then Minister for Justice and Attorney General Mr Daniel Knight, on 20th July 2012 relative to the identification of Mr Peter Clarke. [**Letter available on request.]

ISJA also had the need to write to the then Minister for Health Mr Konstantine Vatskalas on 1st August 2012 on a matter of great concern for the Mr Clarke family.

This introduces difference number 4. During Peter’s time spent at the ICU, a procedure, known as Bronchoscopy was carried out by Associate Professor Graeme Maquire. The Bronchoscopy examined Peter’s upper airways.

The procedure also enabled the collection of fluid from his upper airways (“washings”) and when examined at a special laboratory a non-tuberculous bacterium was grown.

Increasingly, this type of bacterium has been associated with chronic (long term) serious chest infections.

Being aware of the potential of the Bacterium to cause chronic infections, especially in immune-suppress populations (as may be found in most Australian Goals) ISJA wrote to the N.T. Minister for Health to advise him of this information and for him to address it. To this date, we have not even received a courteous reply form the N.T.Minister of Health or the Department of Health.

The Family is very concerned that the time given to this inquest will not be adequate to explore these most important issues. The Family anxiously awaits the Coroner’s investigation and trusts that the inquest will thoroughly examine the above important issues.

For further information please contact the Family media spokesperson Mr Ray Jackson on 0450.651.063

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