An inquiry into the death of a 39-year-old Aboriginal man has called upon the government to stop incarcerating people for victimless driving offences.
By
Tara Callinan

Source:
NITV News
11 Sep 2014 - 3:53 PM  UPDATED 11 Sep 2014 - 8:01 PM

On January 19, 2013, Stanley Lord died in custody while serving an 18 month sentence for driving on a disqualified licence.

An inquiry into his death was heard at the NSW coroner’s court in Glebe this week.

It was confirmed that Mr Lord died of natural causes and that his death was not linked to time spent in custody.

But his mother Marlene Lord disagreed with the court's decision.

“I didn't think that he was treated the right way like a normal person; I don't think he was treated properly,” she said.

On the 5th of July 2012, Mr Lord began his sentence at Wellington Correction Centre in New South Wales.

He was transferred to Long Bay's Metropolitan Special Programs Centre on December 12, where his existing heart condition was monitored.

On the second of January last year he was transferred to Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick where he was treated for a separate condition but died 17 days later from cardiac failure.

This case was presented by Aboriginal Legal Service solicitor, Felicity Graham.

“This case definitely highlights the unnecessary locking up of people for minor offences and the need for reform in that area, and the need particularly to look at programs to bring people within the licensing system, opportunities for people to get a license and stay licensed, particularly in regional and remote communities where there aren't these alternatives to transport,” said Ms Graham.

However, the magistrate did not comment on whether Mr Lord should have been imprisoned for driving offences in the first place.

Mr Lorde's brother Anthony Coombes says an 18 month sentence didn't fit the crime.

“If you are non-violent criminal you fit the criteria of circle sentencing, why not use that option while we have it instead of wasting tax-payers money keeping another criminal in jail? Why not put him through circle-sentencing and make him do community work for the community?” he said.

But suspended drivers could soon get an opportunity to re-apply for their licence.

“There are reforms that are being proposed and that the government has committed too that will see a chance for people to become re-licenced and have an incentive to abide by the rules,” said Ms Graham.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 783 people were jailed for traffic and vehicle offences in 2013, 30 per cent of those were Indigenous.