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Why did the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody broaden its inquiry from deaths in custody to «underlying issues» surrounding Indigenous offending and incarceration? Provide an example of an «underlying issue» and explain how it is Essay

  • Category:
    Law
  • Document type:
    Assignment
  • Level:
    Undergraduate
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    2
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    809

4The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

Name of Lecture

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

The natives felt there was need to establish the causes of custody deaths as they felt the criminal-justice system was not effective. In a period between 19 81 and 1989, at least ninety eight Australian natives had died in the custody. However the inquiry was facilitated by death of a minor called John Pat in the police custody as a result of police negligent and assaulting him, yet they were acquitted of the charges. This brought an outcry by Australian natives demanding through investigations conducted and justice to prevail. In 1987 the royal commission was founded and their aim was to unveil the causes of deaths of the factors that led to the death of the natives in the custody, if they had not sought medical attention. To fully understand the causes, they had to widen up their perimeters to social, cultural and also the legal issues that could hint the reasons for the deaths (McDonald, 1999). The commission was permitted to collect all information related to those deaths and hand them over to the government inform of reports so that they could be acted on. Critics argue that the selected committee did not execute the duties accorded to them to serve the interest of the common citizen, but rather they favoured those in power failing to meet the goal.

They reported that within the six states affected, most of those deaths affected young people of about 32 years of age. They were generally low educated and unemployed as per the time of arrest. Most of those were found to have been detained as children. A number were found to have been detained due to drunkenness while many others had various criminal offences. Still two of those who died were found to have been illegally arrested. The selected committee comprising of qualified lawyers , attended each case separately and reported the finding to as follows; 38 people inflicted their own deaths, 37 seven people died as a result of natural factors such as diseases due to little attention given to them and failure to monitor their health. 12 cases were said to result from head injuries. 9 cases were due to alcohol and drug abuse and 11 cases of external factors such as shock and gun injuries. A number of underlying issues were discovered on further investigations, some of those include; the criminal-justice system, health and use of alcohol and drugs, level of education, relations with non-natives, poverty, internal and international pressures such as land and infrastructure among others (Australian Human rights Commission, 2007).

One of the underlying issues was the relationship that existed between the Australian Natives and the Non Natives. There was some underlying fear that resulted from culture clash. There was a rigid perception by the Criminal Justice System that the natives were always with some hidden missions that they could not understand. For this reason, they found it necessary to incapacitate them to fight back or even defend their rights. There were misunderstanding resulting from communication problems due to different languages and the different interpretation of signs that made it even harder to understand each other (Cunneen, & David, 1996). Tension was build up and none could trust the other hence, the non natives who were also in power, had to threaten the people to instil fear in them. In the custodies, they could not understand each other which made the attendants tired and uncomfortable hence could not monitor their need and health as required. The natives in the custody became frustrated as some felt they were not supposed to be in the custody hence giving up and opting for self inflicted deaths. Others due to misunderstandings were violent to the police who would in turn assault them causing bodily harm that led to death of some. Many deaths could have been avoided if the government would have been able to bridge cultural gap, which would have promoted understanding and hence easier more liberalised ways of solving issues. Although the commission of inquiry is criticised for so many things they did not do and for their biasness, they had a good report that if implemented, would help solve most of the problems in the Australian police custodies.

References

Australian Human rights Commission. (2007).Social Justice Report 2003: Appendix one: A statistical overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. Retrieved,13April,2011from, <http://www.hreoc.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport03/append1.html#Aborigin al>

Cunneen, C., & David, M. (1996). Keeping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Out of Custody: An Evaluation of the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Royal Commissions into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Canberra, AC: Office of Public Affairs, ATSIC.

McDonald, D. (1999).Australia: The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Auckland: Oxford University Press.