Perth actor and Yirri Yaakin dancer Rubeun Yorkshire has been arrested and is being held at a Perth prison for unpaid fines, despite having no prior criminal convictions.
NITV understands that earlier this week Mr Yorkshire was enjoying a day at Scarborough Beach in Perth's north-west accompanied by a female friend when he was stopped for a random name check.
Upon running the name check, it was discovered by WA Police that he had approximately $1700 of outstanding fines dating back to 2013.
In Western Australia under the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act 1994 (WA), if a person defaults on a payment arrangement, an arrest warrant is issued and they are detained at a rate of $250 per day until the fine is 'paid off'.
In a statement to NITV News, the WA police said it was required "to detain a person in circumstances where they are subject to a Warrant of Commitment, and arrange for appropriate custody arrangements to be in place."
"WA Police Force works closely with the Department of Justice in respect to the appropriate custody arrangements," they said.
However Mr Yorkshire's family and the National Indigenous Critical Response believe the 'random name check' was racially motivated.
Mr Yorkshire's grandfather, Uncle Warren, said he was told by a friend who was with Mr Yorkshire at the time of the name check that two police cars arrived to arrest him.
"To me he's been racially profiled on this whole issue. He's having a good time down at Scarborough Beach with his girlfriend and what have you, and they spoke to him like he was a big time criminal," Uncle Warren said.
"He works in town, he's a good kid, he does plays all over the state. For him to be locked up for that, our family, we're all sad about it. You lose confidence in yourself when something happens like that, you know?"
National Coordinator of the National Indigenous Critical Response Service, Gerry Georgatos, has been working closely with the family to assist with Mr Yorkshire's release.
“Rubeun was arrested because the background check identified $1700 in fines outstanding dating back to 2013 and was offset with a repayment plan that Reuben fell behind with last year and a warrant for his arrest sadly ensued," Mr Georgatos said.
“It’s alarming that Rubeun could just be stopped dead in his tracks while walking through the city centre for a ‘name check’. For me it smacks of racial profiling and that type of behaviour translates toxically as vilification."
While Mr Yorkshire's family is now desperately trying to raise money to get him out of prison, Uncle Warren said he really wants to see the system change.
"Rubeun's not the only one with a fine default. There's hundreds and hundreds of people who have fines, and it could be worked out in a simple manner. It causes people stress and it causes people to worry about them," he said.
Mr Georgatos said that he has been working closely with the Attorney General's office to put an end to prison time for fine defaulters.
“This shouldn’t be the way, people arrested because they can’t afford fines. I’ve worked with the State Attorney-General’s Office over the last couple of years to put an end to the jailing of fine defaulters and that has led to effectively no more warrants issued to police pursuant of impoverished fine defaulters," he said.
"But that doesn’t help those who have had warrants issued prior the edict. We need amendments to the legislation to withdraw retrospectively hundreds of outstanding warrants."
Mr Georgatos told NITV that as a result of Mr Yorkshire's arrest, the Attorney-General's office is now working to expedite the proposed amendments to the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act 1994 (WA).
NITV has reached out to the Attorney General's office for comment and confirmation.
Late last year, following the arrest of a mother of four and cousin of Ms Dhu, the Attorney-General's office told NITV that they were working on amending the Act.
"The WA State Government is looking at a range of measures to stop imprisonment from fine default, including a requirement for welfare recipients who have outstanding fines to enter into time to pay (TTP) arrangements," a spokesperson said.
"If the welfare recipient does not enter into a TTP arrangement then the Commonwealth would deduct an amount from the welfare benefits and pay to the Fines Enforcement Registry.
"It’s something we’re still working on and the intention is to introduce a reform package to the Parliament this year."