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Aboriginal man left to die in back of prison van

Ward family fight for justice

Australia Aboriginals face unprecedented levels of racism. The most shocking recent example is that of 46-year-old Mr Ward a Aboriginal elder who was left in a prison van for 4 hours, without air conditioning, in the searing heat that rose to 42 degrees Celsius (118F).

Mr Ward who died on 27th January 2008 suffered a horrible death as he slowly suffocated receiving third degree burns on his stomach as he collapsed in the back of an unattended prison van. He had been arrested for a traffic offence. 
The two security guards were riding in the front of the vehicle and claimed they did not realise the air conditioning in the back was not working.

Aboriginal’s account for a shocking 40% of all deaths in custody. In 1987 the Government held a Royal Commission Into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody that reported in 1991 and put forward 339 recommendations. Some 20 years later the majority of these have still not been implemented
G4S formerly GSL was the private contracted company responsible for transporting Mr Ward and claimed that the air conditioning in the van was faulty.  A state coroner hearing the inquest into the case last year determined that the state government of Western Australia and GS4 were responsible for Mr Ward’s death. He recommended that criminal charges were considered.

However, this week Western Australia Director of Public Prosecutions Joe McGrath cause outrage when refused to prosecute stating that there was no reasonable chance of securing a conviction. He stated

“The offence that it would most closely fit to is manslaughter by criminal negligence. Upon considering that offence, it was determined that it could not be said that it was a prima facie case.”

Protesters and the family of Mr Ward reacted furiously at the decision that no one is to be charged with criminal offence.

Marc Newhouse, a campaigner from Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, said a protest rally would be organised later this week.

“Mr. Ward died under the most horrendous, tortuous conditions. Conditions that were criminal,” he said.

State opposition spokesman John Quigley said it was inconceivable that no one would face charges.

“If it had been a dog in the back of the van and it had died in similar circumstances, then there is no doubt that a person would have been prosecuted under cruelty to animals.”

The Australian Lawyers Alliance director Greg Barnes says Mr. Ward’s family has a good case against the State Government,

“Under civil law all prisoners are owed a duty of care by the prison to make sure their health and well being is catered for”

Mr. Barnes says the Ward family should sue:

“We would certainly like to see some form of compensation for the family. They’ve suffered enormously and in this particular case, you’ve had a full coronial inquest which has meted out responsibility to various parties.”

Mr. Ward’s family has received a $200,000 interim ex gratia payment by way of compensation

The Attorney-General Christian Porter says a civil law suit should not affect the size of the final payment which is yet to be determined.

Mr. Porter said:

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea that any payment is made contingent on the ability to take action.”

He is expected to make a recommendation to cabinet about the final payment within the next four to six weeks.

3 Responses

  1. Can I ask why you state that this is racism? Does it automatically equate that because he isn’t white then racism must be involved. Seriously, get that chip off your shoulder. The guy died because the officers didn’t know that the air conditioning had broken in the rear of the vehicle. That’s it, that’s how simple it is! For god’s sake, take it for what it is instead of looking for racism in every crime against non-white people. It’s people like yourself who actually make things worse. You say “Australia Aboriginals face unprecedented levels of racism. The most shocking recent example is that of 46-year-old Mr Ward a Aboriginal elder who was left in a prison van for 4 hours, without air conditioning, in the searing heat that rose to 42 degrees Celsius (118F).” How anywhere in the article is his sjung colour related to hid death? How exactly is this the “most shocking recent example” of racism? He’d have died if he was black or white and your constant digging is pathetic.

  2. Mike, I’m not from OBV but I’d like to answer a couple of your questions and then ask a couple back.

    1. Why did they state this? Because it is their opinion
    2. Does it automatically equate? No, but it is not impossible given the historical experience in that country.

    However, you have your right to your opinion which – given OBV “make things worse” – they surprisingly posted!

    So, I’d like to ask whether you have grossly exaggerated OBV “looking for racism in every crime against non-white people”?. I mean that’s 1000s of crimes each year in the UK, and the articles posted in such a vein here number in double figures.

    Why fight perceived spuriousness and exaggeration with spuriousness and exaggeration?

    If OBV make things worse, how do you respond to the people who pretended comparing a black tennis player to a ‘Gollywog’ wasn’t racist when Carol Thatcher said it, or suggested Ron Atkinson hadn’t been racist (see Jimmy Hill’s chinny comment).

    Personally, I think those who cry racism in an unjustified manner are not helpful to those who genuinely experience it, but I’m definitely of the opinion that perpetrators of racism and those who collude with them or reinforce these views are actually the ones who make things worse.

  3. Oi Parsons,

    Did you say ‘ Get that chip off your shoulder?’ Come off it Parsons, admit it, your some kind of white far-right typie aren’t you?By the way, are you the one and same Mike Parsons that only got 175 votes in the Crewe and Nantwich election?

    Chip off your shoulder! Dude, you really are so retro when it comes to racist jibes. You need to get with the times. Actually, come to think of it, racisim is rather uncool these days. Seriously, get a life, you sad person.


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