• A photo of Veronica Nelson from her younger years. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The inquest has been delayed due to the 'complexity' of the case. The Victorian coroner says it will be held for at least three weeks in 2022.
By
Stephanie Corsetti

Source:
NITV News
29 Mar 2021 - 4:57 PM  UPDATED 30 Mar 2021 - 1:22 PM

The Victorian Coroner's Court has delayed an inquest into the death of a Yorta Yorta woman, due to the case's complexity. 

37-year-old Veronica Nelson died in January 2020, while in police custody at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre.

The Yorta Yorta woman had been charged with a shoplifting-related offence, and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service said she was unrepresented in custody. 

The court heard the inquest was set for June this year, but that it will have to be delayed until April 2022. 

The inquest is expected to cover the cause of death, the appropriateness of care received at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, addiction management, and whether her death was preventable. 

The Fitzroy Legal Service applied to be involved in the proceedings because it said it has a "deep interest" in the matter, and  particularly with perceived shortcomings of treating drug addictions within the prison system. 

The heartbroken family of Yorta Yorta woman who died in custody speak out
Veronica Nelson was on remand in the maximum security Dame Phyllis Frost Centre for shoplifting after she was refused bail on New Years Eve.

Veronica's mother Aunty Donna Nelson has previously described her daughter as a warrior with a fighting spirit who should not have been arrested and locked up. 

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) said Ms Nelson should still be alive, and that it wants improved health responses for the Indigenous population while in custody. 

"What we hope to achieve is better health responses for Aboriginal people in custody, as well as (changes to) bail laws," said Moricia Vrymoet Director of Legal Services at VALS. 

"As we've seen, there has been many Aboriginal people disproportionately affected by bail laws." 

Ms Vrymoet said Ms Nelson had been charged with a low level criminal offence and wasn't represented at the bail hearing. 

"Veronica found herself facing court in relation to low level offending and placed herself in what is an exceptional... position with respect to bail," she said.

"It's time now, things need to change and we hope that with this inquest we'll be able to make significant changes for our people in the justice system," Ms Vrymoet said. 

Coroner Jacqui Hawkins has pushed back the inquest to next year, but will settle on the witness list this September.

"I have the power and will ultimately decide which witnesses give evidence," she told the court in Melbourne. 

She said she did not want to exacerbate the grief of family members including Ms Nelson's partner Percy Lovett, who attended the hearing on Monday. 

The inquest will run for three weeks.