Has the Palm Island “review” just become a “second opinion”?

Queensland’s Acting Premier, Anna Bligh has announced Sir Laurence Street, the former NSW Chief Justice, has been appointed to review the actions of the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to the death of Mulrunji in police custody on Palm Island.

I notice that the statement announcing the appointment does not use the term “review” at all, instead using the term “second opinion” on four occasions. This is a change from two previous statements issued by the Attorney-General within the last fortnight, here and here, which both repeatedly refer to a “review” of the DPP’s file on the Palm Island matter.

Indeed, according to The Courier-Mail, Anna Bligh “stressed he would not be reviewing the DPP and was simply providing a second opinion on the case based on the evidence”. It is hard to be certain without seeing terms of reference (I haven’t been able to find anything online), but this seems to me to suggest that the so-called review may well not address some of the major questions about the DPP’s actions. This includes a key question of how the DPP could make a categorical statement that the death in custody “could only be the result of a complicated fall”, saying this was “the only satisfactory explanation”.

The appointment of Sir Laurence Street has reportedly been welcomed by some long-standing Aboriginal activists, and his credentials and independence are undisputed. However, a person can still only review what this are instructed to review. It is hard to be certain without seeing precise terms of reference, but it looks to me like this “review” has now just become a request for a “second opinion” on possibly just one question, when there are many that remain unanswered.

UPDATE (6/1): Noel Pearson’s article in The Australian says “It is imperative that the review be empowered to look beyond the compromised police investigation and be capable of pursuing further investigation of evidence.” I like the idea, but it doesn’t look like that is what’s happening. It is good to see that Pearson specifically notes that there is plenty of good leadership on Palm Island, and even goes to the trouble of naming five people as “the tip of the iceberg.”

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28 Comments

  1. I’m also suspicious of the ‘second opinion’. I emailed the Qld Govt’s media service last week asking what sort of review this would be, and have received no reply.

    My suspicion is that Street will be asked to decide if DPP Clare’s decision was ‘possible’.

    Not if it was the right one, or the best one, but simply if it was one of the decisions open to her.

    Then, the propaganda can be that ‘the decision was reviewed and was found to be correct’.

  2. Beattie,one beat of the heart per how many Seconds..as a living reality himself, rather than question…seconded ,borrowed rather than browbeating.. opinion…opine… palm ….So The Second Opinion Goes To Laurence Street To See If Hurley Will or Wont Beat The Rap.These letters and charasteristics are not a few of my favorite things…Sir couldnt make it into the top forty ! Seriously though I think youre right again,but,until someone else wakes up..it will seem a minor point.Some terrible things happening in N.S.W.re crimes, you might have to engage your mind on matters pertaining to violent crime to,below the death major.The rest would be to this blog off subject.I am sure even Officer Hurley would off duty want to talk about other things in life other than violence,which seems to stimulate many besides the few in government ready immediately to decide on harsher penalties.Abandon All hope if neurosis sets in.

  3. Of course an “opinion” is just that. How do you get round “opinion” when it is given and supported by government or government paid officials. Caesar to Caesar?
    Whatever happened to “… and must be seen to be just.” This is “democracy” at work? Ha!

  4. I have to wonder what happens if the police officer does not ultimately face trial. Is any outcome other than a trial, and, further, one leading to a conviction of the officer concerned, going to be acceptable to the people of Palm Island?

  5. So, you are all sceptical too, are you?
    Bad BS detector vibes in pit of tummy?
    The longer yo get to be around, the more familiar these situations seem. deja vu.
    Jackmanson’s assessment in particular was succinct and ominous…

  6. Robert M – I’m not sure what would ‘be acceptable to the people of Palm Island’, and in any case it’s for them to say. I’ve never heard the word ‘revenge’ used – it has always been about ‘justice’. I suspect if the process had not been so full to the brim of dodginess and double standards, they would have been a lot more accepting of a decision not to lay charges.

    However, as I inferred in my main post, for me the DPP making a definitive statement that it could only have been an accident from a ‘complicated fall’ is much harder to rationalise than just assessing that there’s not enough admissable evidence to safely convict beyond reasonble doubt.

    In response to Rob, that’s why I don’t think it’s a matter of ‘was it the DPP or the Coroner who got it right’. They are using differnt burdens of proof and different standards of evidence, and it may have been helpful if both had not been so definitive in their different statements.

    I don’t imagine anyone except Sgt Hurley can know for absolute certain what happened. The only other direct witness had an obscured view and even then only saw the tail end of the relevant episode.

    I don’t know what other evidence the DPP relied on (and neither does anyone else, which is part of the problem), but I guess the one piece of evidence that is fairly definitive is the medical evidence. As I read the medical evidence from the Coroner’s inquest (which as far as I know is not disputed), it is hard to make a definite call as to how the fatal injury was inflicted, although if it was just an accidental fall it certainly must have been complicated.

  7. Well, it seems pretty odd to me that the DPP should have been so definite. There was nothing in it — politically — for her, as far as I can see. She had nothing to gain and everything to lose by declining to prosecute — unless it was her professional ethics. Correct me if I’m wrong. I go back to that article in the Oz that someone linked to on a previous post. On the face of it, it looked as if the Coroner junked a whole bunch of evidence that supported Hurley.

    Now, I don’t know if that’s true or not. One of the problems with these issues is that we’re always seeing things from the outside, and we all (?) know the media tell stories the way they want to tell them. But here we have an appointed official whose job is to decide whether on the face of the evidence it is worthwhile brining a case to trial on the basis of her professional judgment.

    It would be a huge thing to over-rule the DPP because she made a decision that was politically unpopular. The whole reason we have a DPP is that unlike elected officials they should be free of the pressure to play to the gallery.

  8. Rob, it was not the coroner that was “definite”; it was the DPP!
    And in the face of all the evidence.
    So much so , that in light of all the prior testimony and the subsequent coroner’s findings, that Leanne Clare could still come to such a pitifully outrageous conclusion that Mulrunji’s death could ONLY be “accidental”; beggars belief!!
    Poor Andrew must feel he’d be rich enough to retire from parliament if he had a dollar for ewvey time he’d drawn the attention of people to this damaging flight of fancy from the DPP.
    as for the decision being “unpopular”- yes, it IS “unpopular”- but not because of the politics , but the stench of moral cowardice, lies and corruption accompanying it. And that is multipartisan. “It’s the ISSUE, stupid” ( as they say ).
    I personally have been a member of and voter for, the ALP, for example.
    But I, like many, am not angry with the situation because of any desire for some sort of political-football advantage, but outraged, because of the outright denial of logic and decency involved.

  9. Even if the DPP cannot get the evidence to bring this case to trial, shouldn’t the public know why? eg Police corruption of the evidence, police protecting one of their own, the code of silence, deliberately turning off the camera so that the “complicated fall” cannot be witnessed, corrupt police investigators assisting the officer and telling him what to say, to avoid being convicted.

    The case stinks, and should not be allowed a cover up. If the police have acted dishonestly to corrupt the process, then all those involved should be removed from the force with no entitlements.

  10. David Jackmanson makes a good point. Thoughts of the NSW Royal Commission. 140 prosecutions of police officers recommended and none ever got to court. The “powers” may be separated but the influence is not.

  11. This has been a strange and deeply disturbing case. Little has proceeded in the manner that it should: the whole affair has been a litany of ‘perversion’ of process (though I’d not insist that this was necessarily intentional in every instance).

    As I understand the decision process WRT pressing charges, the DPP has to find a balance between the probability of successfully prosecuting a case and that of ensuring that justice is seen to be done. In this instance, it seems that she has given weight to the former at the expense of the latter.

    Given that it is a police officer who was arguably responsible for Mulrinji’s death – even if that officer’s actions were entirely inadvertent or accidental – then surely the only reasonable course for the DPP is to ensure that the case is properly tested before a jury. A man died while in police custody, and it is imperative that the legal system responds in a way that allows the public to maintain its confidence in the police force.

    If the DPP is convinced that any jury drawn from the Queensland population is more than unlikely to find that there was any form of criminal liability – even that of responsibility for accidental death – then perhaps we should be focussing on community attitudes rather than the DPP’s decision.

  12. I’ve added an update to the post, referring to Noel Pearson’s piece in today’s Australian, where states that Noel Pearson’s article in The Australian says “It is imperative that the review be empowered to look beyond the compromised police investigation and be capable of pursuing further investigation of evidence.”

    I like the idea, but it doesn’t look like that is what’s happening.

  13. It looks like I am wrong about the nature of the review.

    I received an email from Kirby Anderson, the Qld Attorney-General’s media adviser, in reply to one I sent.

    Anderson’s email says a “spokesman” said:

    The second opinion will canvas the issue of whether there is sufficient admissible evidence to support a prosecution with a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction.

    Which indicates that it goes back to scratch, and could possibly come to a different decision.

    (Normally I wouldn’t publish the contents of a private email, but this was clearly written for public release, and is not private information)

  14. I think that there is never going to be a resolution to this case. I can understand the grief of his family and the community in general. The reports of his injuries does beggar belief as to the story given that he fell.

    But Palm Island as a whole has a lot more issues to be addressed in the areas of violence, domestic violence & child abuse. Yet again another Palm Islander has been taken into custody for the rape & murder of a 14 month baby girl in the latest news.

    I have no answers nor solutions to the above situation but this community should be taking steps to address their problems and not keep blaming everyone else.

    My children are half white and half black and I have no agenda here. But the community must stand up and totally accept the fact that they do sweep their own troublemakers, abusers etc under the carpet and accept no responsibility for someone’s actions and blame everything on the white society.

    There is no way that I would ever return to Far North Queensland to expose my children to the life that most in the indigenous there choose to live. Time for people there to accept responsibilty for their actions or inactions and not point the finger of blame at someone else.

    If they want to be in control of everything, let it revert to the true old ways and be dealt with by those means. Leave them to sort out their own problems. Let them be self-sufficient in every way and responsible for all their requirements. No more government hand-outs. Live like the traditional ways. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  15. Jane Young,

    I disagree with your assertion that Aboriginal people choose to live the way they do.
    Yes choice is involved in anyone’s life and the life of their children.

    But in terms of the historical and political context Aboriginal people have had few choices in terms of the quality of access and participation housing, education, health on communities such as Palm Island.

    Remember these are communities that were artificially created to hold and separate Aboriginal people from white Australian society. This history cannot simply be overlooked in trying to understand contemporary issues.

    I do agree with you that violence and alcoholism need to be addressed but communities require the tools and skills to enable them to deal with these issues – either independently or in collaboration with government.

    The renegotiation by Aboriginal people of the political,economic and legal engagement with governments at all levels is fundamental to being able to make choices.

    The imposition of govenment policy and administration has failed.

  16. Part 1 The Australian refused to post these comments on their site.
    The Qld Govt and in particular the not so honourable Premier has no authority to claim that the process of having this matter of the DPP decision on the Palm Island incident, resulting in the death of an innocent person, reviewed in this manner by this ex-judge, is appropriate or final.
    This country has one rule of law and it is finally determined by the High Court of Australia not the Premier, the Attorney-General or the highly paid member of the club from NSW.
    As I have stated in other forums any attempt to obstruct, prevent, pervert, or defeat, the course of justice in relation to the judicial power of the Commonwealth which is vested in the Queensland Supreme Court in it criminal jurisdiction and the High Court of Australia in its original and appellate jurisdiction is a crime, 43 Crimes Act 1914, and this is exactly what the members of the ruling classes or club are attempting to do in order to protect the individual Police officer, who allegedly caused the death of Mulrunji, to keep this matter out of the properly constituted court sitting in its criminal jurisdiction.
    How long will this government last in Qld if this police officer is found guilty of the offence of murder. This fascist regime relies on reprisals being taken against any person who attempts to upset the ruling classes who rule us as slaves with the use of arms, batons and pepper spray but do not serve us as they should be expected as public servants.
    The President of the Police Union stated that nobody takes on the Police and gets away with it but he is facing his own problems which I do expect to get dismissed as usual in the pretend courts that do not comply with Chapter 3 of the Australian Constitution.

  17. Part 2 more of what they refused to post
    (Qual) filed in any Qld Magistrate’s Court for the cost of about $70.00. The police do it every day of the week regardless of whether the officer swearing the complaint had any personal knowledge of the allegations or not, this is how they do it now so the Magistrates falsely claim in the Courts.
    It does not matter what Mr Street comes up with in this so called inquiry or faux judicial review, it will be irrelevant, as it is only ever going to be considered as legal advice requested by the Qld Govt and we will never know what they have asked for from Mr Street. Second opinion, legal advice, inquiry, review, cover up, who knows.
    If the Attorney-General fails or refuses to take the appropriate action in the Supreme Court of Queensland the allegation of the offence is still alive and lives for a very long time regardless of what this fascist regime in Qld claims.
    The most appropriate person to swear the complaint before one of Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace would be one of the immediate family members of Mulrunji as they were reliant on their loved ones income and support as a dependant on him.
    Any person who attempts to prevent this curial process from running its full course is treading a very dangerous path if exercising power without the authority or jurisdiction and is at risk of engaging in conduct which could constitute serious criminal conduct.
    We are not slaves and we are not owned by Beattie, the State of Queensland or the First Law Officer and we do not consent to the public servants or anybody interfering as they have done on many other previous occasions.

  18. Part 3 The State of Queensland is also viciously liable for the Police Officers conduct as it is a result of a failure to appropriately train and advise of previous results in the Courts that would identify to the members of the Police Service where the line is that should never be crossed. They know exactly where the line is but, as no appropriate action is ever taken to deter or prevent the blatant abuse of power, this vile conduct continues and resulted in the death of an innocent man who they had no authority to arrest and detain and this is fact, Colman v Power in the Qld Supreme Court and the High Court have already made that decision in relation to the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 and it is backed up by the Coroner in her findings.
    Nobody in the halls of power or members of the legal club will appreciate this post at all and they will go on to claim that only solicitors should give legal advice and put their hand out for wads of money. This is not legal advice it is facts as the Qld Parliament provides the written legislation for the procedures to follow so all you have to do is read the appropriate pieces of legislation. The solicitors appear not to read any of it as this matter has been kicked around for too long and I do wonder who they are trying to protect and why. I know why, along with them, but it is the public that they don’t want to know.

  19. To correct error at start of part 2 of above post.
    Any body can commence the proceeding by way of complaint and summons sworn before and issued by any Justice of the Peace (Qual) filed in any Qld Magistrate’s Court for the cost of about $70.00. The police do it every day of the week regardless of whether the officer swearing the complaint had any personal knowledge of the allegations or not, this is how they do it now so the Magistrates falsely claim in the Courts.

  20. HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA Kable v the DPP NSW Judge 4 Gaudron J
    13. Two other matters of significance emerge from a consideration of the
    provisions of Ch III. The first is that State courts are neither less worthy
    recipients of federal jurisdiction than federal courts nor “substitute
    tribunals” (164), as they have sometimes been called. To put the matter
    plainly, there is nothing anywhere in the Constitution to suggest that it
    permits of different grades or qualities of justice, depending on whether
    judicial power is exercised by State courts or federal courts created by the
    Parliament.
    26. The integrity of the courts depends on their acting in accordance with the judicial process and, in no small measure, on the maintenance of public confidence in that process (177). Particularly is that so in relation to criminal proceedings which involve the most important of all judicial functions, namely, the determination of the guilt or innocence of persons accused of criminal offences. Public confidence cannot be maintained in the courts and their criminal processes if, as postulated by s 5(1), the courts are required to deprive persons of their liberty, not on the basis that they have breached any law, but on the basis that an opinion is formed, by reference to material which may or may not be admissible in legal proceedings, that on the balance of probabilities, they may do so.
    27. Mention should be made of one other aspect of the function purportedly
    conferred on the Supreme Court by s 5(1) of the Act. Public confidence in the
    courts requires that they act consistently and that their proceedings be
    conducted according to rules of general application. That is an essential
    feature of the judicial process. It is that feature which serves to
    distinguish between palm tree justice and equal justice. Public confidence
    cannot be maintained in a judicial system which is not predicated on equal
    justice (178).

  21. Premier Beattie is fully aware that there is no Judicial Review process conducted in the Qld Supreme Court available in Queensland. You will remember that the Royal Commissioner into the Bundaberg Hospital and health issues, Tony Morris, was disqualified by an alleged Judicial Review of his alleged conduct of bais or the perception of bias.
    Our Premier did say on national television that the decision of the so called Judicial Review conducted in the Supreme Court could not be appealed but he did not state why. The reason was that the dispute of the alleged perception of bias did not go to a properly constituted Queensland Supreme Court to conduct the judicial review as it had been fraudulently directed off into another jurisdiction without the knowledge of the Premier or Mr Morris and this was achieved by the court staff in the central Registry in the Supreme Court in Brisbane failing to properly file the originating process by NOT placing the SEAL OF THE SUPREME COURT OF QUEENSLAND on the face of the document as required by the Qld Supreme Court Rules, UCPR, but stamping the originating process with the Queensland Supreme Court Office Brisbane stamp instead. They have been doing this for years and it is also being done in the so called Court of Appeal where they use the same office stamp for any matter in quasi criminal and civil appeals. This then prevents any of these pretend court of appeal decisions from ever getting to the HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA. Check their site and find one civil matter or quasi criminal matter that has been given leave to appeal. An appellant will not get leave to appeal any decision or order that is not sealed with THE SEAL OF THE SUPREME COURT OF QUEENSLAND. the Commonwealth Evidence Act prevents the High Court judges from dealing with these decisions from these TRIBUNALS fraudulently created by the judicial officers in Queensland.

  22. Andrew, The following post was made on another site and when a request was made for the evidence that the individual was actually charged but he failed to support his claims and refused to post my comments in responce to his dribble about being in contempt of court. Is there any statutory basis for his claims of contempt of court when the person has not been charged.
    The following post is what he refused to publish on his so called public forum which I suspect is just another fascist method of controling what is fed to the Australian public.
    Graham Young. Executive Director. National Forum.Chief Editor On Line Opinion.
    There may be some discontinuity in the posts above as I have removed some to be sure not to contravene the contempt laws. To be on the safe side you’re all going to have to leave the discussion as to whether Hurley is guilty or not, or any discussion which might imply one or the other until after the trial. Of course, you can still discuss in private, but discussion on these forums is public. Posted by GrahamY, Sunday, 28 January 2007 6:36:47 PM

  23. GrahamY. Do you have information that isn’t available to the public as it is a fact that the particular individual in question has not been charged with anything as a result of the incident on Palm Island but he had been promoted and now receives much more money for his loyalty to the ruling regime in the Republic of Qld. When and if he ever gets charged and you wish to make that claim again you should first wonder how you can substantiate your claims and provide the evidence to support it. You also state that you have removed some of the posts so to be sure not to contravene the contempt laws. If you have superior knowledge of the contempt laws please provide the statutory basis for this statement, that is, if there are in fact any such statutory laws that apply to the public, restricting their freedom of speech, expression or opinion. I would be interested to read the particular section of the Act of Parliament that you have relied on to now remove posts from this public forum. If this forum is going to be interfered with in this way by you we do have the right of freedom of choice of not reading the irrelevant postings of some of the dribble that you alone now deem to be appropriate. There does not appear to be any of this interference on other Forums and one which comes to mind is Senator Andrew Bartletts page provided for the same purpose. I see no objection to what has been posted on that site and you should have a read of some of the FACTS posted there by myself. There is no such thing as contempt of court unless you are physically in the court room and interfering with the process or the court or TRIBUNAL or you are employed by the ruling regime who will use this allegation if you begin to think for yourself and you need to be taught a lesson for speaking out.
    Mr Graham Young refused to publish the comments above and failed to provide the statutory basis for his claim of being in contempt of court.

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