Police use bail as a political weapon

Police arrest traditional owner for defending the sacred fire on Jagera Land[PN: In the past in Qld, bail was used to make the struggle for democratic rights costly. After mass arrests police would set cash bail higher so that more money went into state coffers. After a large demonstration over $30,000 was needed to bail out the people arrested. Police would even charge organisers with ‘begging’ because organisers were asking people for money on the street to bail out those arrested. One counter to this tactic by police was for people to voluntarily stay in the watchouse overnight and front the magistrate the next day and ask that they be ‘bailed on their own recognisance’ (meaning, no need to set bail because they would give an undertaking to turn up in court on the trial date). On 18 Dec 2012 Qld police and the Brisbane Magistrates Court used the bail act to prevent a traditional owner from returning to Musgrave Park when he defended customary law in lighting the sacred fire on his own country (pictured above and video below). Prohibitive bail conditions like the one described in Andy’s report is another example of the political use of bail by police. Ian Curr December 2015]

[Broadcast on Brisbane Line (4zzz fm 102.1, Saturday 19 Dec 2015]

Last week Iain Pritchard was arrested in a protest for climate action. At the police station he was surprised to find that he was not being offered bail and would have to stay in custody until his case could be heard in court.

This is unusual, but perhaps not that unusual. A look at the history of civil disobedience in Australia will show that bail is often used to restrict protest activities.

Reporter Andy Paine spoke to President of the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties Michael Cope about the purpose of bail and whether it should be used to punish or stop those who engage in civil disobedience.

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  1. Death in custody while waiting for bail says:

    The father of an Aboriginal man who died while waiting for someone to sign his bail paperwork in Broome, Western Australia, was notified of his death by staff at a prison 2,189km away – but it took them two phone calls to tell him which of his sons had died.

    Djabera Djabera-Bardi Jawi man Haji-noor, whose full name is withheld for cultural reasons, died in custody at Broome regional prison on 16 December, four hours after a routine court appearance.

    In a statement to Guardian Australia confirming Haji-noor’s death, the department of corrective services said the 36-year-old was found hanging in a remand cell at 2.10pm. He was taken to Broome hospital, about one street away from the prison, but was pronounced dead at 3.15pm.
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    He is the third Aboriginal man to take his life in custody in WA this year.

    Haji-noor’s family did not even know he was in custody. He left his mother’s house that morning and said he was headed to the police station to check in as part of his bail conditions. He told her he would be back that evening.

    He was on bail on a charge of criminal damage by fire and two lesser charges – one of breaching a violence restraining order and one of obstructing a police officer.

    According to court records, he appeared via video link in the Stirling Gardens magistrates court in Perth, some 2,240km away, at 10am. Video links are usually managed through the teleconferencing facilities at the prison.

    His bail was renewed until 30 March, when he was to be sentenced on the arson charge. But a surety had to present at the courthouse to sign the bail documents.

    Members of his family told Guardian Australia that Haji-noor contacted an uncle, who told him he would act as surety and headed to Broome police station, where Haji-noor said he would meet him.

    By the time the uncle arrived, however, Haji-noor was dead. He had been in custody for no more than five hours.

    The corrective services commissioner, James McMahon, said his death would be subject to a coronial inquest. It took place mid-way through a high-profile inquest into the death in custody of 22-year-old Yamatji woman Ms Dhu, who died in custody in the Port Hedland police lock-up, and a week after the family of 20-year-old Bibbulum Noongar man Jayden Bennell, who also allegedly took his life in custody, was finally granted an inquest date. Both families have criticised the coroner’s court and police for their slow process and lack of information.

    Every reported Aboriginal suicide in a WA prison in the past three years has been by hanging. Previous inquests and the 1991 royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody have consistently found that jails should remove possible ligature points, and the WA government alone has spent more than $5m on ligature point reduction programs.

    Haji-noor’s father, Ramile Haji-noor, said his son had checked himself into a mental health service in Broome six days before his death, only to be discharged after three days – but that didn’t explain his actions on this day.

    “I just can’t understand why someone would do that to himself when he knew he had bail coming,” Ramile Haji-noor told Guardian Australia. “I know he would not have done it to himself if he knew he had that help coming.”

    Ramile Haji-noor works in the mining industry in the Pilbara, more than 600km south of Broome.

    But he and one of his sons, Ramile Jr, heard of Haji-noor’s death first via a support officer at the Acacia prison near Perth, where Ramile Jr is serving a sentence.

    The support officer had pulled Ramile Jr aside and offered his condolences for the death in custody of his family member. Ramile Jr had not heard of a death, and had no phone credit, so the support officer called his father, Ramile Sr.

    “They called me and told me my son had died,” Ramile Haji-noor said. “I said, ‘which one, which son?’ And they said, we can’t tell you his name, we would like you to ring your family in Broome.

    “No one in Broome knew about anything. I rang all of them.

    “About half an hour later the person rang me again and said, ‘Did you speak to your family in Broome?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I’ve spoken to his sister and they’ve never heard of my son passing away’. So I said to them again, ‘What’s my son’s name?’ And he said, ‘Oh, here it is, it’s [Mr Haji-noor]’.

    “And when they said that I thought they must be telling the truth, because that was his name.”

    Ramile Haji-noor thinks he got the first call about 4.30pm, about an hour before the police went to the house of Haji-noor’s mother, Georgette Jackamarra, and formally notified her of his death. Even the manner of that notification, he said, was callous and abrupt.

    “They said, ‘Are you Georgette Jackamarra?’ And she said yes, and they say, ‘Your son is dead’,” Ramile Haji-noor said.

    “What a way to bring the news about someone who has just passed away, to break the news like that.

    “Georgie said, ‘He can’t be, he’s coming back tonight’. It was just a big surprise to everyone.”

    Guardian Australia has been told that none of Haji-noor’s family members were asked to identify his body and Jackamarra’s request to see her son was denied. His body was taken to Perth for autopsy on Saturday.

    Ramile Haji-Noor said he would fly to Broome at the weekend to help his family get answers to questions about how his son died. The primary one in his mind is why neither the police nor his son called him to sign the bail documents.

    “We have all this modern technology now – they could fax the bail documents through to my office,” he said. “At most it would be 10 minutes, 15 minutes work to bail him out. So no one can tell me why he was even in custody.”

    The Department of Corrective Services has been contacted for further comment.


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