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Royal Commission for Palm Island unlikely -

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Royal Commission for Palm Island unlikely

The World Today - Friday, 19 December , 2008 12:38:00

Reporter: Annie Guest

ELEANOR HALL: Queensland's Premier Anna Bligh says she is not convinced that a Royal Commission
into the Palm Island affair is necessary.

Yesterday a court ordered that a coronial inquest into the 2004 death-in-custody be re-opened,
setting aside earlier findings that a policeman repeatedly hit an Aboriginal prisoner.

But critics want a more broad ranging inquiry to examine all aspects of divisive case.

In Brisbane, Annie Guest reports.

ANNIE GUEST: Disappointment is the sentiment among Palm Islanders today, according to resident
Robert Blackley.

ROBERT BLACKLEY: It's an unwelcome Christmas gift for a down and out community that doesn't need
this at this time.

ANNIE GUEST: The former mayor describes a community that's calm but increasingly disillusioned.

A court yesterday set aside some of the more damning findings that Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley
repeatedly used force against Mulrunji Doomadgee before he died of severe internal injuries on the
floor of a cell.

The court ordered the coronial inquest be re-opened to re-examine the evidence.

The death and four years following has been a complex and sorry saga that's included a riot,
inquiries, court cases, concerns about police, question marks over the DPP, suicides, jailings, and
bravery awards for police.

Robert Blackley wants a broad and detailed examination.

ROBERT BLACKLEY: I think it's high time that we really open this up and investigate the whole story
again with a Royal Commission.

ANNIE GUEST: What sort of evidence do you think a Royal Commission could hear that another Coronial
inquest couldn't?

ROBERT BLACKLEY: I just think it's got more authority and more power. I'm obviously not a lawyer so
I couldn't tell you off the top of my head but I know there's suppression orders on particular
evidence.

ANNIE GUEST: Some people would argue that Royal Commissions are not always effectual. For instance,
not all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody have been
carried out. What do you say to that?

ROBERT BLACKLEY: I only want one recommendation out of this and that's Chris Hurley be re-tried.

ANNIE GUEST: What are relations like at the moment between the community and police?

ROBERT BLACKLEY: Well they're slightly strained at the moment due to the fact that the pub is
closed and police have to search people for any alcohol that may have been brought in. So there's a
bit of, it wasn't the right climate really with the tension that's already here with alcohol and
the searches. But in general you know we get on well with a lot of the police. We've been calm for
four years. I don't see any upset about it other than just the general disappointment in the
system.

ANNIE GUEST: Queensland's Premier Anna Bligh has dampened hopes of a Royal Commission.

ANNA BLIGH: Well this has been through numerous legal processes. I'm not convinced that a Royal
Commission would identify anything further that hasn't already been the subject of extensive legal
consideration. But this has been a very difficult and traumatic event and I'd certainly be
interested in seeing the outcome of the Coroner's inquiry which will now proceed as a result of
yesterday's decision.

ANNIE GUEST: Speaking through the police union, Sergeant Hurley said he's satisfied with the
decision, but also that there are no winners in the case.

The District Court did not set aside the central conclusion that Sergeant Hurley caused Mulrunji's
death. Rather it set aside specific findings that the policeman responded to Mulrunji with
"physical force" hitting him while he was on the floor "a number of times".

The Doomadgee family plans to appeal against the re-opening of the inquest. Queensland has only
gained a dedicated Coronial Court in recent years. The academic who wrote a review that helped
inform the laws governing the court says re-opening the inquest could equate to a new inquiry.

Professor Justin Malbon is now at the Monash University Law School.

JUSTIN MALBON: Generally speaking what the Coroner will do is start afresh.

ELEANOR HALL: And that report by Annie Guest in Brisbane.