As much justice as aboriginal Australia ever gets

He was cooked to death in the back of a prison van. Neither the negligent white prison guards, nor the cost cutting private prison company responsible for his death will have to answer for it.

From the ABC:

No charges to be laid over prison van death
Western Australia’s Director of Public Prosecutions has informed the widow of an Aboriginal elder who died in a scorching prison van in 2008 that the officers involved in his death will not be charged.

In 1992 the Australian crime thriller Deadly told the story of a white vidmate cop sent to cover up the death of a black man in an outback community. In that delightful piece of utter fiction, the copper gave a damn, and set about finding out ‘the truth’.

In 2010, we just throw money at the widow and tell her where to shove justice.

Ngaanyatjarraku Shire president Damien McLean says the DPP told Mrs Ward in person that the prospect of a conviction – given all of the facts – was non-existent.

The Ward family received a $200,000 interim ex-gratia payment from the State Government following Mr Ward’s death.

By way of comparison, when a white man is wrongfully locked up, he’s a good shot at a few million dollars.

At least there was a coronial inquest. I suspect the heroic actions of a few people of Palm Island contributed to that.

Palm Islander's worked together to deter future black deaths in custody.

If there was such a thing as justice, the charge for those who killed Mr Ward would be criminally negligent manslaughter.

“In order to establish manslaughter by criminal negligence, it is sufficient if the prosecution shows that the act which caused the death was done by the accused consciously and voluntarily, without any intention of causing death or grievous bodily harm but in circumstances which involved such a great falling short of the standard of care which a reasonable man would have exercised and which involved such a high risk that death or grievous bodily harm would follow that the doing of the act merited criminal punishment.”

Hows this for a possible manslaughter by criminal negligence prosecution?

In a small community in the Western Australian desert, on a day where temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius, two white prison guards working for a private prison contractor, locked an over weight 36 year old aboriginal man in a tin can for four hours.

They knew that the required air conditioning was not working, and that the monitoring camera was not working.

They did not perform required checks, allow required stops, or provide required water. He sustained third degree burns as the temperature of the metal exceeded 56 degrees, and died.

Of course, in this country a white jury would never convict. Townsville confirmed that.

In such circumstances, the Palm Island example seems perfectly legitimate. Perhaps there’s a private prison company who should double check the sprinkler system at their corporate offices? We can only hope.


  1. pete from TasJuly 29, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Hi Kieran, read you comment on the abc-online. Can confirm that the Greens don’t do grubby back room deals for donations like ‘liblabs’.
    Money come from members and fundraising from small groups within the Greens

  2. Kieran BennettAugust 25, 2010 at 5:31 am

    Depends what you define as “grubby back room deals”. I’ve never seen a dinner where you can buy access to one of the Senators by the minute, if that’s what you mean.

    However in the past two elections the Greens have received substantial support from the Electrical Trades Union (to the great irritation of the Labor party).

    For info on what the Greens say they do, check out their donations policy.

    For info on what this means in practice, check out Democracy 4 Sale, a resource the Greens have put together using info from the AEC on donations.


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