Palm Island verdict: 12 years in the making

Police in Palm Island (Supplied) Source: Supplied

A landmark decision in a racial discrimination case brought against the State of Queensland and its police service will be delivered today.


10 August 1987
In 1987, a Royal Commission is established to investigate Aboriginal deaths that have occurred in State and Territory jails. The Royal Commission investigates all deaths in custody between January 1980 and May 1989. 

15 April 1991
The final Royal Commission report makes 339 recommendations, mainly concerned with procedures for persons in custody, liaison with Aboriginal groups, police education and improved accessibility to information.

Doomadgee's Death

19 November 2004
At around 10:20am on Palm Island, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley arrests Cameron Doomadgee for swearing. Forty minutes later, Doomadgee is found dead in the cell. An investigation begins later that day. Hurley claims Doomadgee tripped on a step.

26 November 2004
Doomadgee's autopsy results indicate that he died from internal injuries, with the island’s pathologist claiming they are the result of "a fall". In response to the findings, riots break out on the island.

Within an hour of his arrest Cameron Doomadge was found dead in a cell at Palm Island police station.
Cameron Doomadgee died at the age of 36.

November 2004
Queensland State Coroner Michael Barnes calls for a second autopsy.

11 December 2004
Cameron ‘Mulrunji’ Doomadgee’s funeral is held on Palm Island. Family, friends and some media now refer to Cameron as Mulrunji, for cultural reasons.

The Inquest

28 February 2005
A coronial inquest into Doomadgee's death begins on Palm Island.

3 March 2005
The Doomadgee family challenge State Coroner Michael Barnes impartiality. He stands down in response. 

1 August 2005
The inquest recommences, now overseen by the Deputy State Coroner, Christine Clements.

27 September 2006
Clements hands down her findings. She claims Hurley lost his temper and fatally assaulted Doomadgee, and recommends Queensland DPP Leanne Clare consider laying criminal charges.

14 December 2006
Clare and the Crime and Misconduct Commission announce there is not enough evidence to lay charges against Hurley.

4 January 2007
Former NSW Chief Justice Sir Laurence Street starts review of the DPP's decision.

16 January 2007
Witness Patrick Bramwell commits suicide.

Lex Wotton
Palm Island resident Lex Wotton.

25 January 2007
Street, and independent barrister Peter Davis SC, determine that there is enough evidence to prosecute Hurley for charges of assault and manslaughter. 

5 February 2007
Hurley is charged with one count each of manslaughter and assault of Doomadgee. 

The Trial

12 June 2007
Hurley trial begins in Townsville Supreme Court. Palm Islanders and police attend.

15 June 2007
Pleading not guilty, Hurley testifies in his own defence. He says he has “come to terms with the fact he caused the death”, but denies intention to cause harm.

20 June 2007
In less than four hours, the jury returns a verdict of not guilty in the Hurley trial, acquitting him of manslaughter and assault charges. 

9 October 2008
Hurley launches an appeals to have the deputy coroner's findings overturned.

November 2008
Wotton sentenced to six years jail for his part in riot, serves 20 months and is released on condition he not talk to media or attend public meetings while on parole.

18 December 2008
Hurley wins his appeal. Townsville District Judge Bob Pack orders that the State Coroner direct another Coroner to reopen the inquest into Doomadgee’s death.

14 May 2010
In the third coronial inquest, Queensland deputy chief magistrate Brian Hine finds that there is no evidence that Hurley intentionally inflicted the fatal injuries.

17 June 2010
The Crime and Misconduct Commission finds that the two police investigations into Doomadgee’s death were flawed.

February 2012
Wotton's challenge to gag order while on parole rejected by High Court.

Discrimination case

September 2015
Makeshift Federal Court hears evidence at Palm Island's school about police response after Mulrunji's death and then moves to Townsville.

March 2016
Officers give evidence about the riot and response in Townsville.

December 2016
Verdict in racial discrimination case against Queensland Government and Police Force to be handed down.

Source SBS World News


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