NT Corrections Commissioner Stands By Statement Praising Staff After Aboriginal Death In Custody


The NT Corrections Commissioner has stood by his comment that prison offers did an “outstanding job” following the most recent Aboriginal death in custody in the Northern Territory.

A 40-year-old Aboriginal man died at around 11 pm last Friday, according to a statement issued by NT Police.

New Matilda understands he was in jail over a driving offence but there are no further details about how long he had been incarcerated.

The NT Police have said the latest Alice Springs death in custody will be subject to a coronial inquiry, but did not release any further details.

But NT Corrections Commissioner Ken Middlebrook last week claimed prison officers had followed correct protocol, based on reports he had read.

The practice of police or corrective services making media statements before any coronial investigation has been completed was criticised by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody a quarter of a century ago.

Mr Middlebrook stood by his comments to New Matilda.

“From the reports I’ve read it would appear the staff have done an outstanding job – that’s the reports I’ve read, which have been given back by senior staff,” Mr Middlebrooke told New Matilda.

“They responded immediately, did everything right, applied CPR… they did what they could to make the inmate comfortable until professional medical officers came.

“The sad fact is Indigenous people come into custody and a lot of them have got poor health and we do a fantastic job of looking after those people.”

Commissioner Middlebrooke said a fellow prisoner in a ‘buddy arrangement’ raised the attention of the officers to the man.

Ken Middlebrook on Lateline last year

The death is the second Aboriginal death in custody in the Northern Territory in the past two months. In May, an Aboriginal man, Kwementyaye Langdon, died at the Darwin watchhouse after being detained under the NT”s controversial paperless arrest laws.

The ‘paperless arrest’ laws have been condemned by legal bodies like the Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), who are challenging the laws in the High Court.

Mr Langdon had been picked up on a minor alcohol charge.

In November last year, a middle-aged Aboriginal woman in Alice Springs passed away after being detained under the NT’s controversial mandatory alcohol treatment program.

Previously, Aboriginal man Kwementyaye Briscoe died in a cell at the Alice Springs watchhouse after being taken into ‘protective custody’ for intoxication.

A coronial inquest into his death did not recommend any charges, but found a catastrophic failure of duty of care. Police officers had failed to do regular checks on Mr Briscoe, and instead listened to their iPods and surfed the net.

A Darumbul woman from central Queensland, Amy McQuire is the former editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine.