• Elizabeth Jarrett (right) embraces Leetona Dungay during a press conference in Sydney. (AAP)Source: AAP
Leading criminal barrister Phillip Boulton says he is of the opinion that there is "sufficient force in evidence" to prosecute the guards involved in the death of David Dungay Jr.
Keira Jenkins

31 Jul 2020 - 3:40 PM  UPDATED 31 Jul 2020 - 3:40 PM

A prominent criminal barrister has backed calls from the family of David Dungay Jr for the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to investigate laying charges against the prison officers involved in the Dunghutti man's death.

David Dungay Jr died in custody at Long Bay prison in 2015 and his family has long called for charges to be laid against the guards involved.

On Friday, Barrister Phillip Boulten said there was "sufficient force in evidence" to pursue prosecution of the guards involved on grounds of manslaughter or assault.

“There is, in my humble opinion, a very real public interest in this matter being carefully considered by the director of public prosecutions," Mr Boulten wrote.

“Simply because the coroner decided not to refer the case for consideration for a homicide offence, does not relieve the DPP of giving independent consideration to all relevant issues once they are drawn to the director’s attention.

"As has been pointed out by many in recent times, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have died in custody continues to grow unacceptably.

"No one has ever been prosecuted for anything that led to the death of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island person whilst they were in custody.

“This particular death shocked the NSW public. It continues to do so. In these circumstances, it is only right and just that the circumstances of this case be considered with the utmost seriousness and gravity.”

Mr Boulten's advice has now been forwarded on to the DPP.

Leetona Dungay, David's mother, said the family will give the DPP some time to consider the advice given by Mr Boulten.

"If we do not get any action on this we will be calling for more protests. Black lives matter, my son's life matters, we need manslaughter charges right now on the guards that killed my son," she said.

'No one listened'

Ms Dungay said her family has been fighting for too long to get justice for her son.

"For almost five years my family has been suffering," she said.

"My son and our Dunghutti Warrior David Dungay Jr was killed  in Long Bay Prison. This was painful enough, but hurting us more has been the racist system that refuses to give us justice.

"We have been fighting for justice with only a small number of supporters. We have said all along that the guards who killed David should be charged.

"No one listened to us."

The family's efforts have been renewed in recent months, following the death of George Floyd in the United States.

He said "I can't breathe" multiple times before his death and parallels have been drawn to the death of Mr Dungay, who also yelled out that he could not breathe before he died.

Mr Dungay's family has been at the forefront of a number of Black Lives Matter rallies in recent months and in the five years since his death.

Aboriginal rights advocate, Paddy Gibson, assisted the Dungay family in organising the Black Lives Matter rally earlier this week, which saw six protesters arrested after the event was declared 'prohibited' by the Supreme Court.

Mr Gibson said as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to die in custody, it is important that those involved are held accountable.

"As we're being dragged out of a park and told we can't demonstrate for black lives matter more black people are dying in custody," he said.

"It needs to end now. Central to ending the ongoing abuse and killing of Aboriginal people is the question of criminal accountability for the people who are responsible."

'Back in the streets'

David's cousin Lizzy Jarrett thanked the people who have supported the Dungay family over the past five years and called on others to help get justice for Mr Dungay.

"We will be back in the streets, you will be sick of seeing our faces, you will be sick of hearing my name," she said.

"It's about time you knew my cousin's name - David Dungay Jr. Charge the guards with manslaughter now!"

Ms Jarrett said this step for the Dungay family could go some way in opening the gates for other families who have lost loved ones in custody, to get justice.

"Black lives really do matter here, stop black deaths in custody, give some justice to one family so all the other families can follow through," she said.

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