Inquest into the Death of Ms DHU

Inquest into the Death of Ms DHU

Delivered on :16 December 2016

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : State Coroner Fogliani

Recommendations :Yes

Recommendation No. 1 & 2 : In connection with dedicated lock-up keepers and competency training for lock-up keepers the State Coroner made the following recommendations:

I recommend that at every police station where detainees are held, there must be a dedicated lock-up keeper. Alternatively that a minimum of two officers are rostered for custodial care duties at any time.

And

I recommend that a mandatory training course on the roles and responsibilities of lock-up keeper/supervisor be developed and introduced across Western Australia and that a component of the training be undertaken face-to-face. Successful completion of the course ought to be mandatory before an officer can be assigned lock-up keeper/supervisor duties.

Recommendation No. 3 & 4 : In connection with police improvements on cultural training the State Coroner made the following recommendations:

I recommend that the Western Australia Police Service develops its cross-cultural diversity training to address the following:

  1. That there be mandatory initial and ongoing cultural competency training for its police officers to assist in their dealings with Aboriginal persons and to understand their health concerns;
  2. That Aboriginal persons be involved in the delivery of such training;
  3. That successful trainees should be able to demonstrate cultural competency – that is a well-developed understanding of Aboriginal issues and the skills to deal effectively with Aboriginal communities; and
  4. That the initial training and at least a component of the ongoing training is to be delivered face-to-face.

And

I recommend that the Western Australia Police Service develops its training for police officers who are transferred to a new police station to address the following:

  1. That it be a standard procedure for all police officers transferred to a location with a significant Aboriginal population to receive comprehensive cultural competency training, tailored to reflect the specific issues, challenges and health concerns relevant to the location;
  2. That members from the local Aboriginal community be involved in the delivery of such training, and that it be ongoing to reflect the changing circumstances of the location; and
  3. That the initial training and at least a component of the ongoing training is to be delivered face-to-face.

Recommendation No. 5 : In connection with medical information provided by medical staff to police on the health of detainees the State Coroner made the following recommendation:

I recommend that Parliament consider whether legislative change is required in order to allow medical clinicians to provide the Western Australia Police Service with sufficient medical information to manage a detainee’s care whilst in police custody. Allied to this is a consideration of the safeguards concerning that information.

Recommendation No. 6 & 7 : In connection with sentencing reforms for low level offending the State Coroner made the following recommendations:

I recommend that the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act (WA) (section 53) be amended so that a warrant of commitment authorising imprisonment is not an option for enforcing payment of fines.

Alternatively, that the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act (WA) (section 53) be amended to provide that where imprisonment is an option, the imprisonment must be subject to a hearing in the Magistrates Court and determined by a Magistrate who should be authorised to make orders other than imprisonment if he or she deems it appropriate.

And

I recommend that the pending reforms outlined by the Justice Ministers’ Working Group concerning the following measures be given a high priority for consideration by Parliament, with a view to providing alternatives to incarceration through legislative reform:

Recommendation No. 8 : In connection with detainees being transported to the nearest prison the State Coroner made the following recommendation:

I recommend that fine defaulters, if incarcerated pursuant to a Warrant of Commitment, should be transported to the nearest prison within four to eight hours of their arrest, where the transport time does not exceed the detention period.

Recommendation No. 9 : In connection with the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme the State Coroner made the following recommendation:

I recommend that a policy be introduced by the Western Australian Police Service that requires the police to contact by telephone the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme once a decision has been made to detain an Aboriginal offender in a police lock-up. In addition, any APLO attached to the station should also be made aware by police that they may contact the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme at any time on behalf of a detainee.

Furthermore, once a decision has been made to take an Aboriginal detainee for medical treatment, contact by telephone must be made by the police to the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme advising it of that fact, the name of the detainee and which hospital or medical treatment facility the detainee is being taken to.

Recommendation No. 10 : In connection with the consideration of the introduction of a Custody Notification Service to operate alongside the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme the State Coroner made the following recommendation:

I recommend that the State Government gives consideration as to whether a state-wide 24 hours per day, seven days per week Custody Notification Service based upon the New South Wales model ought to be established in Western Australia, to operate alongside and complement the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme.

Recommendation No. 11 : In connection with better recognising risk factors for persons in custody, including Aboriginal persons the State Coroner made the following recommendation:

I recommend that the lock-up procedure manual be amended to make reference to the following in relation to the care of detainees:

Orders/Rules : N/A

Suppression Order : N/A

Summary : The deceased was arrested on a number of Warrants of Commitment for unpaid fines and taken to the South Hedland Police Lock-up. She died less than 48 hours after being taken into custody. The provisions of The Coroner’s Act 1996 require the death of a person while in police custody be examined by way of inquest, and the supervision, treatment and care of the deceased while in custody be commented upon.

On 2 August 2014 the deceased was processed and detained in a cell at the lock-up. Later that evening the deceased complained of being unwell and was taken by police van to the Hedland Health Campus for assessment. The deceased was assessed and medical staff provided police with a signed fit to be held in custody form. The deceased returned to the police lock-up where she remained for the rest of the night.

On the following afternoon, 3 August 2014 the deceased again complained of being unwell and police transported her to the Hedland Health Campus for a second assessment. The deceased was seen and treated by medical staff and police were provided with a further fit to be held in police custody form.  The deceased returned to the lock up in the evening.

On the morning of 4 August 2014 the deceased was still complaining of being unwell. Police thought she was feigning her symptoms.  After midday police made the decision that the deceased required further medical assessment and arrangements were made to transport the deceased to the Hedland Health Campus.  Upon presentation at the Emergency Department medical staff became alert to the deceased’s serious medical condition and resuscitation attempts were made.  Despite their efforts the deceased could not be revived.

The State Coroner found that the deceased died on 4 August 2014 from staphylococcal septicaemia and pneumonia in a woman with osteomyelitis complicating a previous rib fracture and that death occurred by way of natural causes. The State Coroner was critical of a number of actions of clinicians and police officers.

Catch Words : Death in Custody: Cultural Competency Training : Premature Diagnostic Closure : Inhumane Treatment : Staphylococcal Septicaemia : : Natural Causes.

 

Last updated: 7-Feb-2017

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