Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Australia: Coverup cops walk free

Queensland's police complaints whitewash tribunal of the Joh era was notorious and was finally closed down by the Fitzgerald enquiry -- but the cops have found a way to re-create it

THE failure of police to conduct a proper investigation into the 2004 death of Palm Islander Mulrunji Doomadgee at the hand of a veteran policeman will not lead to disciplinary charges, with Queensland's anti-corruption watchdog powerless to take court action against any of the officers involved.

Crime and Misconduct commissioner Martin Moynihan QC will today announce he is unable to challenge a decision by the Queensland Police Service to reject the watchdog's recommendation for disciplinary action against six officers involved in the now discredited investigations.

The decision of police Deputy Commissioner Kathy Rynders to reject the CMC's recommendations and instead find that the officers face only "managerial guidance" is understood to have created a legal loophole that prevents a court appeal. The CMC can seek to overturn the decision only if it is in the formal police disciplinary process.

Civil liberties lawyers last night called for an independent review of the police disciplinary process in Queensland. "The police complaints system has broken down," Australian Council of Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman said. "The need is exemplified by the fact that it has taken six years and still it is unresolved as to whether the circumstances of Mr Doomadgee's death was properly investigated."

Mr Moynihan last year warned charges would be filed directly in Queensland's Civil and Administrative Tribunal against the six officers if he was unsatisfied with the response of Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson to a CMC report into the watchhouse death. The damning report echoed the findings of Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements in slamming the initial investigation as lacking "transparency, objectivity and independence".

The CMC said Mr Atkinson needed to take responsibility for a "corrosive culture" that led to the "seriously flawed" Doomadgee investigation, and several other high-profile misconduct cases.

It recommended four officers -- who led the investigation -- face disciplinary action for alleged misconduct, with the two senior officers -- handpicked by Mr Atkinson to review the initial investigation -- also face disciplinary action.

After a series of court challenges about the report, Ms Rynders reported to the CMC in January rejecting the disciplinary recommendations and finding that the officers should only receive "managerial guidance". That decision cannot be challenged.

Doomadgee's violent death, within an hour of being arrested for public nuisance by Palm Island police boss Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, sparked riots during which the police station servicing the Aboriginal community off Townsville was burnt down. Sergeant Hurley was acquitted in 2007 of Doomadgee's manslaughter.

Original report here. (Via Queensland Police)

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