Fam­ily of Ms Dhu sue for ne­glect

North West Telegraph - - Telegraph News - Tim Clarke

The fam­ily of Ms Dhu — the young Abo­rig­i­nal woman who died in po­lice cus­tody while pay­ing off fines — have per­son­ally sued the po­lice of­fi­cers they blame for her death, as well as the State of West­ern Aus­tralia.

Ms Dhu, a Ya­matji woman, died from sep­ti­caemia and pneumonia in Au­gust 2014, three days af­ter she was locked up in South Hed­land Po­lice Sta­tion for fail­ing to pay just over $3000 in out­stand­ing fines.

In a writ filed with WA’s District Court this month, Ms Dhu’s mother, grand­mother and un­cle are claim­ing dam­ages for the neg­li­gence and “mis­fea­sance” of the WA Po­lice and the WA Coun­try Health Ser­vice

Lawyers for Ms Dhu’s fam­ily have also named four po­lice of­fi­cers per­son­ally in the writ, in­clud­ing Rick Bond, the of­fi­cer in charge of the sta­tion at the time, and So­phie Ed­wards, the sta­tion’s only Abo­rig­i­nal li­ai­son of­fi­cer.

If they are found to have acted neg­li­gently in their du­ties they could be li­able to pay some of the dam­ages the fam­ily are claim­ing.

The writ, drafted by Syd­ney­based law firm Le­vitt Robin­son, claims dam­ages for the fam­ily as a de­pen­dant of Ms Dhu, who was 22 when she died.

Al­ter­na­tively, the fam­ily also claim dam­ages “for psy­chi­atric in­juries/ner­vous shock they suf­fered and puni­tive and ex­em­plary dam­ages as a re­sult of the death”.

“Caused by the mis­fea­sance in pub­lic of­fice of the po­lice of­fi­cers and health-care work­ers em­ployed by the de­fen­dant or its agen­cies,” the writ says.

Also named in the writ are of­fi­cers Christo­pher Matier and Sally Burgess — the two of­fi­cers who are seen in CCTV footage re­mov­ing and drag­ging the hand­cuffed Ms Dhu from her cell to take her to hos­pi­tal.

The same law firm is plan­ning to lodge a com­plaint of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion about Ms Dhu’s treat­ment to the Aus­tralian Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion.

The writ fol­lowed the find­ings of a lengthy and emo­tional in­quest into Ms Dhu’s death, af­ter which coroner Ros Fogliani was scathing about the treat­ment of the young woman on Au­gust 2, 3 and 4, 2014, at the Hed­land Health Cam­pus and the po­lice sta­tion.

She de­scribed Ms Dhu’s treat­ment as “ap­palling, un­pro­fes­sional and in­hu­mane”, and said her death “un­leashed a wave of grief that has re­ver­ber­ated through the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties”.

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