• The 26-year-old, who is six months pregnant, was arrested and detained overnight for "failing to obey a witness summons” against her abusive former partner. (Richard Wainwright/AAP)Source: Richard Wainwright/AAP
Western Australia's criminal justice system fails a family violence survivor after police arrest, strip search and lock-up a pregnant Aboriginal mother for failing to attend court as a witness.
NITV Staff Writer

The West Australian
1 Jun 2019 - 12:38 PM  UPDATED 1 Jun 2019 - 1:01 PM

A young pregnant Yamatji woman was arrested and detained for 24 hours in a Perth watch house last month for "failing to obey a witness summons" that related to her giving evidence against an abusive former partner, The West Australian newspaper has revealed this morning.

Twenty-six-year old university student, Kearah Ronan was six-months pregnant when she voluntarily attended Kiara police station on May 3 after learning that an arrest warrant had been issued against her.

“I just thought it was bizarre, I thought it was a misunderstanding (and) perhaps they’ve got my name mixed up,” Ms Ronan told The West Australian. “I went down to the station and (police said) it was a legal binding document and they had no other choice to place me under arrest until I could go to court, which was the next day.”

Ms Ronan, who had been set to give evidence at Midland Magistrates court on January 21 against her former partner, had previously notified the court registry to let them know she would be unable to attend due to illness.

The West Australian reports that Ms Ronan had also offered to provide the court with a medical certificate but was told it wasn't needed and that the next court date would be in October.

Despite these assurances the Magistrate ordered an arrest warrant against her after it was requested by the police prosecutor. 

Ms Ronan, who also has a four-year-old daughter, is the cousin of Ms Dhu – the 22-year-old Aboriginal woman who died in WA police custody in 2014 from domestic violence injuries after she was arrested for unpaid fines.

Earlier this week, at the launch of the WA Police Force Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) the WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson described the most urgent issue facing policing in the state was ensuring protection and services for Aboriginal people.

"Aboriginal persons are subjected to more crimes than non-Aboriginal persons. More Aboriginal people are tied-up in our prisons and in our court systems," he said.

Speaking at the inaugural Aboriginal Employee Symposium in Perth on Tuesday, the Commissioner said WA Police aimed to build better relationships between police and Aboriginal communities in WA, describing the new RAP as "more than just a booklet ... more than just raising the flags."

The West Australian reports today that Ms Ronan said she was moved to come forward with her story because she wanted to highlight the mistreatment of Aboriginal women and victims by the justice system.

WA Attorney-General John Quigley has ordered the Commissioner for Victims of Crime to investigate the case and last night vowed to “do everything in his power” to ensure something similar never happens again, The West Australian reports.

Ms Ronan’s lawyer, George Newhouse, told The West Australian that Mr Quigley needed to take urgent steps to ensure no victim of gender-based violence ever has to experience a night in a police lock-up again.

“There needs to be substantial checks on the prosecutors who ask for these kinds of warrants and there should be strict protocols that magistrates must consider before they issue them,” Mr Newhouse said.

More to come.

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