• Northern Territory coroner Greg Cavanagh walks out of the Katherine Court House (AAP)Source: AAP
The inquest into the death of a man in a Darwin watch house has recommended that the controversial paperless arrest laws in the NT be repealed.
Christopher Roe

14 Aug 2015 - 3:43 PM  UPDATED 14 Aug 2015 - 5:58 PM

In May this year, 59-year-old Kumanjayi Langdon from Yuendumu in Central Australia died three hours after being taken into police custody for "drinking in a regulated place".

Mr Langdon sufferred from several health complaints including severe cardiomyopathy.

The inquest heard on Thursday that he died from heart failure which was "probably alcohol related".

The coroner, Greg Cavanagh, noted improvements in watchhouse care and commended police for their concern and honesty during the inquiry.

He noted, however, that there could have been a more careful investigation into Mr Langdon's medical history.

He was also critical of the implementation of the paperless arrest scheme during an operation in May that saw many Indigenous peoples detained for drinking in public parks.

"It is clear that there are enormous pressures on police and nurses as a result of the paperless arrest scheme and the police initiative known as Operation Ascari II, which encourages the arrest of public drinkers, almost all of whom are Indigenous," Mr Cavanagh said.

"That increase in the numbers of Indigenous people in custody is likely to lead to a proportionate increase in the numbers of Aboriginal people dying in custody.

"This has led me to recommend that the law should be repealed."

Mr Cavanagh detailed how the laws appeared to overwhelmingly target Indigenous people and to diminish the rights of the arrestee.

He said that no court would have kept Mr Langdon behind bars and highlighted the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody around decriminalising public drinking.

He finished by calling for the paperless arrest regime to be repealed and called for an independent expert inquiry into responses to alcohol misuse in the Northern Territory.

"This should form the basis for a plan to be developed by government working with stakeholders, including Aboriginal people, communities and organisations, to find solutions."

-with AAP