40th anniversary of the victory of the 1967 referendum

 

The headlines on Friday, March 23, 2007 read “Four acquitted over Palm Island riot” [The Age], “Not Guilty” [The Courier Mail] and so on.

Bruce long - Courier Mail

What the papers do not say is that the Queensland Government had been successful in getting longer sentences against other Palm Islanders trying to rid their island of police aggression and killing. To do that government has played on the racist fears of the public, the police union, and the judiciary.

In giving his reasons for increasing the sentences against three Palm Islanders last December Queensland’s chief justice made reference to so-called ‘victim impact statements’. One police officer said in his statement that he (and presumably his fellow officers) had decided (if necessary) to fire on the Palm Island gathering after the white-wash by the first inquest of Mulrunji ‘s killing. The policeman made this written statement:

“… I made a cold, logical decision to fire into a large crowd if necessary with obvious consequences (it) has caused me much angst since. I often reflect on how much bigger this whole sorry Palm Island saga would have been if that lock (to the firearms cabinet) had given away and we had ended up firing into the crowd, killing God knows how many people.” in R v Poynter, Norman & Parker; ex parte A-G (Qld) [2006] QCA 517 at [29]

Three Palm Islanders are still serving time in prison as a result of the Queensland Government’s appeal against their original sentences.

Yet a jury acquitted four palm islanders of riot in a four week trial that ended yesterday (22 March 2007).

Lex Wotton, a respected leader of the community, goes to trial soon on similar charges. He will be the last Palm Islander to face charges arising out of the community’s concern over the killing of Mulrunji in November 2003. Legal argument continues next week over his plea.

Senior Sgt Hurley is yet to face trial over charges of the manslaughter of Mulrunji. His trial is scheduled to start in Townsville in April 2007.

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