• Gene Gibson was sentenced to seven years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. (Kiwirrkurra)Source: Kiwirrkurra
Gene Gibson, the Aboriginal man who was wrongly jailed for the death of a man, will seek $2.5 million in damages from the Western Australian Government.
9 Aug 2017 - 3:30 PM  UPDATED 9 Aug 2017 - 3:31 PM

A cognitively impaired Aboriginal man from the remote community of Kiwirrkurra has served nearly five years after being convicted wrongfully convicted of manslaughter.

Josh Warneke, 21, was found dead on the side of a road after leaving a nightclub in February 2010. Mr Gene was sentenced to seven and a half years for fatally striking Mr Warneke from behind in Broome 2010.

Mr Gibson, who speaks the Pintupi dialect, barely speaks or understands English. He walked free in April at the age of 25 when his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal. 

"He's had difficulties dealing with the prison system over the last five years."

The ruling was based on the fact that Mr Gibson had little education, a limited understanding of English, suffered from a cognitive impairment and therefore didn't understand what was happening during the legal process including first being interviewed by police without an interpreter.

Mr Gibson's lawyer Michael Lundberg said it was challenging coming up with a figure to reflect the years of his life lost in prisons in Perth, Geraldton and Roebourne away from his country and people.

"He's had difficulties dealing with the prison system over the last five years," Mr Lundbeg said.

"Fundamentally there's no tariff on a person's life.

"What would your average West Australian regard as a fair figure for spending five years in jail and being away from your family, your country, but also being a person who has a cognitive impairment, English as a third language and is thrust into the criminal justice system through no fault of this own?"

Mr Gibson had been unfairly and horribly mistreated and given none of the usual protections and safeguards that should have been afforded to vulnerable people such as him, Mr Lundberg said.

He said he wanted a public trustee to look after the money with no fees imposed.

Mr Gibson had returned to a nomadic life without a fixed abode since being released and it was unclear which government agency should be supporting people such as him who had been wrongly imprisoned, Mr Lundberg said.

But he could have a bright future and had potential as a singer and musician, he said.

The search for Mr Warneke's killer goes on and the victim's mother Ingrid Bishop - who campaigned for Mr Gibson's release - believes police have a workable theory on what happened to her son, and people in Broome know who the killer is.

Premier Mark McGowan said Attorney-General John Quigley will take legal advice on what the appropriate compensation would be.

"That's something that might take some time," he told ABC radio.

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