Aboriginal people on Palm Island scored a small victory in December with a court finding police guilty of racial discrimination. But killer cop Chris Hurley has still not been brought to justice.
The Federal Court ruled that Queensland police racially discriminated against them in the investigation of the murder of Aboriginal man Mulrunji Doomadgee and the brutal police repression following riots there in 2004.
The Court found the police acted with a “sense of impunity, impervious to the reactions and perceptions of Palm Islanders, and very much with an ‘us and them’ attitude”.
The island erupted when an autopsy report said the death was a result of a fall, with the courthouse, police station and the police barracks all burnt to the ground.
The government declared a state of emergency and sent in 80 extra police including the Tactical Response Group. Police kicked in doors and terrorised families even though the protests had long finished.
Lex Wotton, who filed the racial discrimination suit, had a stun gun used on the back of his legs during a raid while his 15-year-old daughter had a rifle pointed at her head. The family were awarded $220,000 in compensation.
Shamefully, the Queensland Labor government has joined the police in appealing the verdict. Several federal Labor MPs, including shadow services minister Linda Burney, as well as a number of Queensland state Labor MPs have publicly criticised the Queensland government.
Senior constable Chris Hurley was responsible for Doomadgee’s death, yet remained on the island while the investigation into the killing was conducted.
The investigating officers were Hurley’s friends and he was never treated as a suspect.
He was acquitted of manslaughter by an all-white jury in 2007. The racist police force promoted him into a plum job on the Gold Coast. Since then he has continued to abuse his power, and has been convicted of a number of assaults.
The Queensland state protected Hurley for too long. His career now appears over, not because he committed a racist murder but because his latest conviction, in January, was for assaulting another cop.
By Mark Gillespie