• Aboriginal father Rocky Loo was locked up for unpaid fines after an ID check on a Perth train. (NITV/ Rangi Hirini)
An Aboriginal father says incarcerating people for unpaid fines could lead to more deaths in custody, as the Western Australian Parliament looks set to debate the amendment bill later this week.
By
Rangi Hirini

Source:
NITV News
18 Feb 2020 - 2:24 PM  UPDATED 18 Feb 2020 - 2:24 PM

A Noongar father says fine defaulters should not be sent to maximum-security prisons after he spent four days locked up at the same prison where another Aboriginal man was fatally bashed last year.

Rocky Loo was incarcerated on Friday after he was stopped and checked by police on a train en route to pick up his anxiety medication.  

After it emerged that Mr Loo had an unpaid fine issed in his name, he was detained and sent to Hakea Prison, in Perth’s southern suburbs, for five days to pay off his fine of $3599.

Mr Loo spoke with NITV News an hour after his release and said that the incident was a “stressful situation”.

“A lot of people that don’t know the system or haven’t been through the system, it’s quite daunting for them,” said Mr Loo.

“[But] once you’re there and once they have the handcuffs on you, there’s no point in stressing out, there’s no getting out of it until it's over."

The father of seven said that a silver lining to his situation was that he knew some people who were on the inside but added that it would be a more intimidating scenario for anybody more vulnerable.

“They put you in there with all the maxi people, so if you’re vulnerable you could be attacked quite easily… there should be another environment altogether [for fine defaulters],” Mr Loo said.

“It’s gonna take them [fine defaulters] to get bashed and killed for them [the WA government] to pass the law quicker,” he said.

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Last February, Noongar man Alf Eades was killed following a brutal bashing at Hakea Prison, which left him in an induced coma with a broken neck, severe brain swelling, facial fractures and lacerations.

Six men are expected to stand trial later this year for Mr Eades’ murder.

NITV News is waiting for a response from the Department of Justice on prisoner’s welfare.

Mr Loos’ former partner and mother to his seven kids, Marianne Mackay, told NITV News the past weekend was “horrible” and all the children suffered without seeing their father. 

“We co-parent wicked, and we’re a team - so without having that other half of the team there it sort of set everything out of whack, and the kids weren’t themselves. It was just the whole disturbance of the energy that we use to have around us,” Ms Mackay said.

“You’ve got a man that’s turned his life around and it doesn’t matter how far it goes, he’s still being pushed back into the [prison] system for something as ridiculous as fines,” she said.

Ms Mackay said she was relieved to hear the news that Rocky had been released from prison early after receiving support from the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project (NSPTSP) as he would now be able to attend an important doctor’s appointment for their six-month-old baby.

The NSPTSP's Megan Krakouer has called on the WA state government to push the amendment through and not leave the state’s Indigenous community susceptible to the high risks of imprisonment.

“Stop creating more havoc and distress in our communities, it’s a poverty narrative, a lot of people are dealing with suicidally, they’re dealing with an arch of issues. That (changing the laws), is a way forward,” she said.

Ms Krakouer said she believed the WA Labor government should have done more since coming into office three years ago. 

A spokesperson for the Attorney General told NITV News that passing the amendment bill was a priority for the McGowan government in 2020. 

“Imprisoning people for fine default alone is bad policy and one that had been ignored by the former Barnett-Harvey Liberal Government," the spokesperson said in a written statement. 

“Unlike our predecessors, the McGowan Government recognises the importance of these reforms and urges the Opposition and cross-bench to support its swift passage through the Parliament.”

The Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Amendment Bill 2019  is expected to be debated in the Upper House of Parliament this week. 

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