Palm Island review judge quits

27th December 2006

BRISBANE criminal lawyer Peter Davis, SC, will replace a retired judge who has stepped down from a review of a decision not to charge a police officer over a death in custody.

Former Chief Judge of the District Court Pat Shanahan today told Attorney-General Kerry Shine he would not review the decision by Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare not to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over the death of 36-year-old Mulrunji Doomadgee in the Palm Island watchhouse in November 2004.

Ms Clare had insisted she would not seek an external review of her decision because the "evidence did not support a prosecution" despite state deputy coroner Christine Clements' ruling in September that Snr Sgt Hurley caused Mulrunji's death.

"Brisbane criminal lawyer Peter Davis SC has been appointed to serve on the review,'' Mr Shine said. "The review will consider the DPP's file on the matter dealing with the death of Mulrunji on Palm Island in November 2004."

The review was expected to be completed in February next year.

But the government's handling of the matter has come under fire from opposition and Aboriginal groups.

Opposition Attorney-General spokesman Mark McArdle stopped short of calling for Mr Shine's resignation but said he had made a "complete mess" of the Mulrunji matter, his first major decision since taking office on November 1.

"The attorney-general to date in this position has not performed up to the standard that we expect of an attorney-general," Mr McArdle said.

"There is a serious cloud over as to whether he has the capacity to take on the role of the state's first law officer. This is his first major decision and he has made a complete mess of it."

Around 1,000 people rallied and marched through Brisbane streets last Wednesday, calling for the sacking of Ms Clare and the resignation of Premier Peter Beattie and Police Minister Judy Spence.

Organiser of the protest, Sam Watson, said Mr Shanahan's name should not have been put forward in the first place.

Mr Watson said he did not know if Mr Davis had ever been to Palm Island or to an Aboriginal community.

He said the person who should conduct the review should be completely independent and from another state, such as NSW or Victoria.

"The Brisbane bar and the Brisbane legal fraternity have done nothing to advance the cause of Aboriginal people since day one," Mr Watson said.

"The Brisbane legal fraternity has gone cap in hand with the Queensland police culture and the Queensland political culture."