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Chris Miles calls for review of royal comm into aboriginal deaths in custody

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Chris M I L E S Shadow Minister for

Chris Miles, Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, today called for a review of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody so that the inquiry can be redirected to the real needs of Aborigines in the criminal justice system.

Mr Miles made his comments following the appointment of Mr Elliot Johnston as head of the Royal Commission, replacing Justice Muirhead.

'The Muirhead Interim Report indicated that the proportion of Aboriginal deaths in prison custody (13% of all prison deaths) is basically the same as the proportion of Aborigines in the prison population (about 15% of all prisoners)' Muirhead Interim Report, p.92.

'We need to reconsider the appropriateness of the coronial approach adopted by the Commission,' Mr Miles said.

'With the appointment of a new Commissioner now is an appropriate time to consider a new approach.

'With reports to date highlighting deficiencies in the operation of the justice and prison systems, with no evidence of foul play by authorities, we need to ask

whether 100 more case reports would provide more information beneficial to reducing the numbers of deaths in custody.

'The Commission needs to determine which cases should be subject to a coronial-type inquiry. As these cases are dealt with more of the Commission's resources should be focussed on looking at the wider social system which leads

to the heavy rate of Aboriginal imprisonment.

CONTACT: Stephen Wade (062) 77 4118

Thursday, March 2nd, 1989 AA/89/18