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    Cover image of HREOC Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 1989-1996

An Indigenous GSL Death in Custody

"On Australia Day 2008 a man was arrested for allegedly drink-driving. He was charged with one count of drink-driving and taken to the local lockup. He was then driven 570 kilometres to a courthouse, remanded in custody and driven a further 352 kilometres to a prison. As they approached the prison it was noted that he was unconscious. He died shortly after. He was Aboriginal. His death can be added to the eight black deaths in custody in 25 days in the Northern Territory already this year. If eight white teenagers died in custody in Victoria in 25 days there would be an uproar."

IMAGE: from the HREOC Indigenous deaths in custody 1989 - 1996 report

"When wealthy white businessmen and sporting personalities are picked up for drink-driving, they are charged and then allowed to go home. We know that some of them have been abusive and non-compliant but they are still not locked up. Why was this man transported nearly 1000 kilometres in over 40-degree heat for a similar charge? It will likely be more than a year before a coronial inquiry. An apology is long overdue as is equality and justice for indigenous Australians."

(The Age, Febr 2 2008, Letters: "Justice long overdue", Pamela Curr, Brunswick)

About this page

This page deals with the death during a transport by Global Solutions Ltd of Indigenous Elder Mr Ian Ward of Warburton, and the news coverage following this first West Australian Aboriginal Death in Custody during 2008.

The death raises serious issues about the quality of road transport, and the quality of the vehicles used for this transport of prisoners and immigration detainees (and not for the first time), about the outsourcing of transport contracts to overseas companies who are first and foremost accountable to their shareholders, rather than to their client, the persons transported, about serious previous incidents in failing performance of Global Solutions Ltd (the company also responsible for the running of Immigration detention centres and transporting immigration detainees) and about the "at armslength" responsibility lines of such outsourcing.

The page starts with our media release of January 31, and follows the published news items.

Related:

16 June 2009: Elder Mr Ward: Coroner delivers damning findings - West Australian Coroner Alastair Hope delivers his damning report on the death of Indigenous Elder Mr Ward. This page brings together some resources, links, documentation and media items around the release by the WA Coroner of his Inquiry Report into Mr Ward's death on 12 June 2009.

20 March 2009: The Inquest into Mr Ward's death - The damning indictments against Global Solutions Ltd, the company Australia uses to lock up refugees and detainees in immigration detention, the same company that has a contract for prisoner transportation in Western Australia, grew rapidly as the Inquest into Mr Ward's death progressed. This page brings together the media reportage about the inquest.

Perth Public Meeting Flyers:

  • Public Call for Urgent Community Organising Meeting - Announcement of Public Meeting Wednesday 18th March 2009: If you are outraged about what you have heard so far, this is the time to get involved by committing, ideas, skills & time. (PDF File 35 Kb)
  • Call for Justice for Aboriginal Elder - Announcement of Public Meeting Wednesday 13th February 2008: We need the support of people with a passion for justice. Please consider attending this urgent public meeting to offer your support, voices, knowledge and skills in organising this campaign for Justice.(PDF File 172 Kb)

Documentation:

Global Solutions Ltd Kalgoorlie death in custody is not the first one

Media Release
Thursday January 31, 2007 7:30am WST
For immediate Release
No Embargoes

"Last weekend's death in custody of an Indigenous drink driving offender while in transit by van, an AIMS Van operated under the contract with the US company [see note] Global Solutions Limited from the Western Desert to Kalgoorlie was not by any means the first serious incident by this company, the company also charged by the Federal government for the running of Immigration Detention camps, the company responsible also for transport of Immigration detainees and prisoners, and this death warrants a full, independent, and complete investigation, not just by the State government, but by an independent body," WA human rights group Project SafeCom said today.

NOTE: GSL is now owned by a European Security Consortium - Group 4 Securitas - they just bought it back from 2 equity companies last month

Villawood death

The death comes on the back of another death of an inmate of the Villawood detention centre, who was under GSL transport on his way to a Sydney hospital, where he collapsed on arrival on the hospital's steps, only to be pronounced dead 24 hours later; NSW human rights advocates expressed serious concerns about the quality of medical care and monitoring in Villawood, a facility run by GSL following this incident. [See a report on the death in Green Left Weekly here]

Sept 2004 GSL Transport (Maribyrnong-Baxter)

On 17-18 September 2004 GSL transferred 5 detainees from Maribyrnong to Baxter, without due regard to their deteriorating condition in the locked-up compartment of the transfer van, including provision for food, water, exercise and toilet facilities, and without attending to their refreshment needs in an environment where in the searing heat, the airconditioner was incapable of providing a comfortable environment during the trip. Subsequently GSL showed serious disregard for the detainees' initial complaint about the transport, and it was not until complaints had reached the Ombudsman and HREOC, that a full inquiry was conducted by Mr Keith Hamburger AM. At the time, Federal MP and Member for Fremantle, ALP MHR Dr Carmen Lawrence was instrumental in getting this inquiry off the ground.

Keith Hamburger Report

From the report:

"...the van is unsuitable in that its design creates an unsafe and inhumane environment for those in the secure compartments, as well as having design faults in the air-conditioning system that creates discomfort through failure to adequately cool the secure compartments..."

The Keith Hamburger Report can be found here.

Following the Hamburger Report all five detainees received compensation offers and a letter of apology from the Immigration Department.

Inspector of Custodial Services writes to GSL

In June 2007, the Inspector of Custodial Services in WA, Richard Harding, wrote to GSL, questioning whether the company had the "capacity to cope with the logistical challenge of running a transport service across such huge distances as are involved in Western Australia", and whether GSL would "attempt to cherrypick the most profitable parts" of the transport contract. Mr Harding also expressed serious concerns about what he called the 'parlous state' of the fleet of State-owned vehicles, and about the insufficient resourcing of this fleet by the WA government.

Richard Harding's remarks on this issue are here.

GSL future under the Rudd Labor government

"Conform with an earlier expressed commitment by the Labor party while in opposition, where it gave a full commitment to replace overseas companies, working under "commercial-in-confidence" secrecy arrangements, and working for the primary motive of generating profits for themselves, with agents working under auspices of the Australian Public Service, the Rudd Labor government should use this growing misery tale of human disasters to cancel its contract arrangements with Global Solutions Limited and replace the care for immigration detainees, and the transfer and transport of detainees and prisoners by international companies, with Australian operators who are directly responsible to the Inspector of Prisons and the Minister for Immigration," Project SafeCom said.

"The Rudd government should immediately end the opportunistic, cruel and "at armslength" abdication of responsibility methods of the Howard administration for what happens in this area, and replace this abysmal situation with contracts where Australian public service operators are directly and immediately responsible for what happens to their clients, and it should be made abundantly clear, that they are prosecutable if anything goes wrong while people are in their custody," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

Man dies on way to jail

ABC ONLINE NEWS
Posted Mon Jan 28, 2008 4:05pm AEDT
Updated Mon Jan 28, 2008 4:10pm AEDT

Western Australia's Minister for Corrective Services, Margaret Quirk, says there will be a thorough investigation into a death in custody in Kalgoorlie.

A 46-year-old man, believed to be from the Goldfields town of Warburton, collapsed while being transported from Laverton to Kalgoorlie.

He was taken to Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital where he died a short time later.

A spokesman for the transport company G-S-L, Tim Hall, says it was a traumatic event.

"I can tell you at the moment it was a very distressing incident in every respect," he said.

"The police coronial investigation is still underway however, and for that reason I'm not able to make any comment at all about the incident. I can tell you that our employee will receive counselling if such is necessary."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/01/28/2148185.htm

Drink driver dies in custody

The Australian
Paige Taylor
January 28, 2008

MAJOR Crime Squad detectives are investigating the death in custody of an Aboriginal man arrested on Australia Day in the West Australian desert town of Warburton for allegedly drink-driving.

Police say the man died the next day after collapsing in the back of a security van on the second leg of a 915km journey to jail in the goldfields city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

He was being driven by contractors for the Department of Corrective Services, who noticed he had collapsed as they neared their destination.

Police stopped the man last Saturday at 9.30pm in his remote home town of Warburton, 1500km northwest of Perth in the traditional Ngaanyatjarra Lands.

He was charged with one count of drink driving and taken to the lockup in Warburton.

He was driven 570km to the courthouse in the town of Laverton where he appeared on Sunday and was remanded in custody.

Police say he was being transported to the nearest jail, the Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison 352km away, when he collapsed.

The man was being transported by Global Solutions Limited, after having been picked up in Laverton at 11.40am, police say.

He was being conveyed in the rear of the GSL security van.

As the van neared Kalgoorlie, the man was found to have collapsed and he was conveyed to Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital.

But he died a short time later.

Kalgoorlie Detectives will help the Major Crime Squad with its investigation of the man's death.

Corrective Services Minister Margaret Quirk said the cause of the death had not yet been established.

"Any death in custody is a tragedy and will be thoroughly investigated,'' she said.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/.../html

Death may have been preventable: Watch Committee

ABC ONLINE NEWS
Posted Wed Jan 30, 2008 7:47am AEDT

A voluntary organisation says the death of an Aboriginal elder in the back of a prison van in the Goldfields may have been preventable.

Warburton community leader, Ian Ward, collapsed while being transferred from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in stifling heat on Sunday and died a short time later in hospital.

The chairman of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, Marc Newhouse, says calls have flooded in to them from Indigenous people around the state who are upset about the incident.

Mr Newhouse says they committee will be asking questions of the Attorney General and the Inspector of Custodial Services because there have been previous reports that the vehicles used to transport prisoners do not have proper facilities.

"A lot of people, many Aboriginal people across the state, are sick and tired of these sorts of deaths which for many people are preventable, they're preventable deaths and they shouldn't be happening," he said.

The Deaths in Custody Watch Committee is calling for a review of prisoner transport arrangements.

The vans used are government-owned but run by private contractors.

Mr Newhouse says things to need to change.

"Firstly, we'd like to see, in terms of transportation of prisoners, a complete review of the current arrangements," he said.

"There's been problems with the transportation of prisoners by private contractors in the past and we just think it's entirely inappropriate that an important function of that nature is privatised."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/01/30/2149463.htm

Death in custody guard told of 'bloody hot' van

The Australian/News
By Paige Taylor
January 31, 2008 03:00am

A GUARD sobbed as she told a hospital doctor it was "bloody hot" in the back of the van in which Aboriginal leader Ian Ward was locked for up to 4 hours before he collapsed, vomited and died on the weekend.

The temperature outside the van climbed to 43C on Sunday as the father of five was driven 352km by two court guards from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia in a sealed rear compartment that investigators suspected was not airconditioned.

Witness Jodie Aurisch, a Kalgoorlie receptionist, told The Australian she was in her local hospital's emergency department waiting to see a doctor when Mr Ward's lifeless body was wheeled in at 4.30pm on Sunday. Ms Aurisch said she heard a female emergency department doctor approach the female guard in the waiting room and ask what had happened to Mr Ward.

She said the guard explained between sobs: "It's bloody hot in the back of the van."

Whether the airconditioning was functioning in the back of the eight-year-old van is crucial to the Major Crime Squad's investigation into the death of Mr Ward, former chairman of the desert community of Warburton, 1500km northeast of Perth in the Ngaanyatjarraku Lands.

The Australian has learnt that the van's airconditioning broke down late last year, but it was repaired, checked and cleared for service on January 1.

The two guards believed it was working that afternoon, according to the Transport Workers Union.

Inspector of Custodial Services Richard Harding describes the state Government's prison transport fleet, bought in 2000, as "clapped-out".

A police officer gave Mr Ward, 46, a meat pie and a bottle of water as he got into the back of the van in Laverton shortly before noon. He died after arriving at the hospital in Kalgoorlie about 4 1/2 hours later, according to a police statement.

Mr Ward had been en route to Goldfields Regional Prison in Kalgoorlie after being charged the previous night with drink-driving in the remote town of Laverton. His blood alcohol level was allegedly more than 0.2, and it was determined he must be remanded at the nearest jail because he was serving a suspended sentence for a driving offence.

Ms Aurisch said the guards were upset when they arrived with Mr Ward.

"After he had been taken in, a doctor came out to the waiting room and asked the female guard what happened," she said. "She told the doctor 'We came from Laverton, we were about five minutes away when we found him unconscious', and then she stopped for a little bit because she was in distress and crying. And then she said, 'It's bloody hot in the back of the van'."

A post-mortem inquiry, expected to be completed today, will determine if Mr Ward died of heat stroke.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23134420-421,00.html

Death in custody not surprising: Inspector

ABC ONLINE NEWS
Posted Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:25pm AEDT
Updated Wed Jan 30, 2008 7:22am AEDT

The Inspector of Custodial Services, Professor Richard Harding, says he is not surprised by the death of an Aboriginal elder in the back of a prison van in the Goldfields, given the state of the transport fleet.

Warburton community leader, Ian Ward, died on Sunday.

He was being transferred from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in stifling heat when he collapsed.

He died a short time later in hospital.

Police are investigating the death and whether the air conditioning was working in the transport vehicle.

Richard Harding says the government-owned vans are continually breaking down, leaving prisoners stranded in searingly hot conditions in remote areas.

"The whole fleet is frankly clapped out," he said.

"Now there has been a process started of replacing it...two of the 41 vehicles have been replaced and they are an improvement but the van being used on this occasion was not one of them."

The head of the Aboriginal Legal Service, Dennis Eggington, says the service has previously raised a number of issues with the government about the dangers of prisoner transport.

"We've also mentioned regular servicing of vehicles and in remote areas where it's very hot then the last thing you'd want is air conditioners breaking down."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/01/29/2149311.htm

Prisoner transport company warned on safety before death

ABC ONLINE NEWS
Posted Thu Jan 31, 2008 2:31pm AEDT

Western Australia's custodial services watchdog has revealed it wrote to the government's prisoner transport contractor, GSL, last year raising concerns about its ability to transport prisoners safely.

Details about the warning have been released in the wake of the death of Aboriginal leader Ian Ward.

Mr Ward died while being transported from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in extreme heat on Sunday.

In a letter to GSL in June last year, the Inspector of Custodial Services Richard Harding outlined six major concerns including the company's capacity to cope with the logistics of transporting prisoners across long distances.

Professor Harding says he also raised concerns about the adequacy of the government-owned vehicle fleet used by the company.

"I stressed I wasn't happy that the Department had adequately briefed them on how bad the vehicle fleet was, how much it was in need of replacement, and I warned them that they should get an undertaking from the department to replace the fleet," he said.

Van rundown

A woman who was in the emergency department of Kalgoorlie hospital when Mr Ward was rushed in says the van used to transport him looked very rundown.

Jodie Aurisch says she saw the van pull up to the hospital with Mr Ward unconscious in the back.

She says he had to be held up in a wheelchair and had vomit on his clothes.

"I overheard the female officer say oh my god it's so hot in the back of that van," she said.

"I mean looking at the van it looked older than me, it's very old, I mean I didn't see inside it but from the outside it looked very very old and just like a normal run around van."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/01/31/2151292.htm

WA prisoner transport fleet 'parlous'

The Age
January 31, 2008 - 7:41PM

A company was warned about the "parlous state" of the West Australian government's prisoner transport fleet well before an Aboriginal elder died in a prison van.

Ian Ward, 46, of Warburton in the Goldfields, died during a Global Solutions Ltd transfer from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in hot conditions on January 27. It is unclear if the airconditioning was off, or faulty.

Drivers of the van took Mr Ward, who had been picked up for drink driving on Australia Day, to Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital after they found him collapsed. He died a short time later.

WA Custodial Services Inspector Richard Harding wrote to GSL last year outlining six concerns, including "GSL's capacity to cope with the logistical challenge of running a transport service across such huge distances as are involved with Western Australia".

"The parlous state" of the government-owned fleet upon which GSL would have to rely was among Mr Harding's concerns.

GSL is contracted by the WA government to provide prisoner transport services and by the federal government to run immigration detention camps and transport immigration detainees and prisoners.

Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit said there had been other transportation issues under the watch of GSL, formerly US-owned but bought last month by European security consortium Group 4 Securitas.

"This is an ongoing issue partly because it's an out-of-Australia company ... you no longer have people employed who are directly responsible, by contract, to the minister," Mr Smit said.

A 2005 federal government inquiry found GSL failed to provide medical assessments and treatments for injured detainees who were being transferred to the Baxter detention centre in South Australia from Maribyrnong in 2004.

The probe found the van used to transport detainees was "unsafe and inhumane" with airconditioning design faults.

The five were sent an apology and compensated by the immigration department.

WA major crime squad detectives are investigating the latest death amid calls from human rights groups for an independent investigation.

WA Deaths in Custody watch committee spokesman Marc Newhouse said Mr Ward's death should not have happened.

"Clearly the government has already been warned about the state of that fleet, which is government-owned," Mr Newhouse said.

2008 AAP

http://news.theage.com.au/wa-prisoner-transport-fleet-parlous/20080131-1pbv.html

Death prompts call for transport overhaul

The Kalgoorlie Miner
31st January 2008, 8:30 WST
by Garrett Mundy

Custodial groups have called for an overhaul of prison transport procedures following the death of an Aboriginal elder in custody on the weekend.

The 46-year-old Warburton man was being transferred from Laverton to Kalgoorlie when he collapsed in the back of a security van contracted to Global Solutions Limited. He died a short time after arriving at Kalgoorlie Hospital.

GSL took over the State's prison management contract last year after a series of incidents involving previous contractor Australian Integrated Management Service.

Inspector for Custodial Services Richard Harding said the man's death was an unnecessary result of continual neglect of Aboriginal prisoners in WA.

"What this case highlights is the conditions under which we imprison and transport Aboriginals in regional areas is simply not acceptable," Mr Harding said.

"It's partly because of the climate, but also because we have not invested sufficiently in making sure these people are looked after."

Mr Harding said questions needed to be asked as to why prisoners were transported over such vast distances in such potentially stressful conditions.

"Long regional transports could be done with civilian coach-type transport with a little extra security," he said.

"They have used these types of methods in the US and other countries for many years, so why can't we? Why haven't we thought laterally about this?"

His comments were echoed by Deaths in Custody Watch Committee chairman Marc Newhouse, who said current practices did not adequately protect the safety of prisoners.

"No matter what type of vehicles are used for transporting prisoners, the number one priority should be that safety is paramount," he said.

"The vehicle needs to be one that ensures peoples' safety, and currently they don't do that."

Mr Newhouse said the Watch Committee was opposed to the ongoing privatisation of custodial services, because it compromised prisoner safety.

"These things should clearly be the responsibility of government, because they are social issues and the private sector is all about making money."

Goldfields Land and Sea Council chief executive Brian Wyatt said there were other modes of transport that could be used in similar situations.

"In these sorts of conditions you've got to have a system that works better for everyone," he said.

"From a humanitarian point of view this man, regardless of whatever crime he might have committed, had rights. He still has to be looked after and protected, and for this to be the outcome is simply appalling."

http://kalgoorlie.thewest.com.au/regionals.aspx?MenuID=326&ContentID=56585

Silence on cause of elder's death in custody van

The West Australian
by Tiffany Laurie
1st February 2008, 6:30 WST

Police yesterday refused to reveal the results of a post-mortem examination on the body of an Aboriginal elder who died after he collapsed in custody while being taken to Kalgoorlie in the back of a van.

It is understood police received the results yesterday.

Warburton Aboriginal elder Ian Ward collapsed in the back of a Global Solutions Limited van on Sunday after a four-hour trip from Laverton to Kalgoorlie and died a short time later at Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital.

The 46-year-old, who was being transferred to face a charge of drink driving, was found unconscious in the back of the van in the middle of the afternoon when temperatures outside exceeded 40 degrees.

It is understood the van's air-conditioning broke down the previous week and had to be replaced. The van is part of a fleet owned by the State Government but managed by the private prison management company.

The State Government's controversial deal with Global Solutions Limited, the group responsible for prisoner transport, could be tested, depending on the outcome of the investigation into Mr Ward's death.

Opposition Leader Troy Buswell said the death in custody raised serious concerns over the State Government's "gifting" of the contract to GSL.

GSL was controversially awarded the $70 million prisoner transport, court custody and security services contract last year when the company bought out the previous contractor Australian Integrated Management Service.

Letters obtained under Freedom of Information laws revealed the Inspector for Custodial Services, Richard Harding, told Corrective Services Minister Margaret Quirk in April that the plan for GSL to take over the contract was unwise and risky.

Despite his advice, Cabinet not only approved the takeover of the AIMS contract by GSL last July, but days later it extended the deal by three years without any public tender process.

"Depending on the outcome of the investigation by police and the coroner, the State Government needs to be examining every aspect of the contract and take action against GSL if and when it is appropriate," Mr Buswell said.

Ms Quirk said issues surrounding Mr Ward's death, including the contract with GSL, was a matter for the police investigation and the coronial inquest and it was not appropriate to speculate.

"At this point no one knows how or why the man died," she said. "It is disgusting that the Opposition is using this tragic death in custody to try to score cheap political points."

The annual Report on Government Services 2008 found WA had the highest rate of indigenous imprisonment in Australia, with about 3500 Aboriginal prisoners per 100,000 adults compared with fewer than 2500 nationally.

WA also had the second-highest rate of indigenous prisoner deaths from apparent unnatural causes behind NSW, at about six deaths for every 10,000 prisoners. The national rate is five in 10,000 prisoners.

A spokesman for GSL said that for contractual reasons, and because the police investigation was ongoing, he was unable to comment, but the situation was "distressing".

http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=146&ContentID=56706

Richard Harding MEDIA RELEASE

Friday 1st February 2008
Prisoner Transport

Richard Harding
Inspector of Custodial Services
Phone (08) 9212-6200

The death of a prisoner being transported in extreme heat from Laverton to Kalgoorlie on Sunday has highlighted the failures of the prisoner transport system in Western Australia.

The Inspector of Custodial Services Professor Richard Harding said today: 'In the context of Western Australia having the longest land-based prisoner transportation routes in the world and very difficult climatic conditions, we must put together a system with, at the very minimum, vehicles that are fit for purpose, properly designed and reliable.'

The Commissioner of Corrective Services receives weekly reports upon the transportation issues. Accordingly, the chronic deficiencies in the fleet are well-known to the Department of Corrective Services and thus to the Government, which owns the fleet.

During the longest journeys - from the North and Northwest of the State down south and from the Eastern Goldfields and the Lands - as many as 95% of those transported are Aboriginal. Whilst it is not suggested that deliberate racism underlies the neglect of this longstanding problem, it is probable that it would not be tolerated if the passengers on these journeys were 95% non-Aboriginal.

The Inspector witnessed firsthand in 2001 the arrival of 12 Aboriginal people after a 12 hour journey on prisoner transport. He was deeply shocked to see them 'fall out' of the vehicle disorientated and dehydrated. Since then his reports have featured comment on the sub-standard state of the vehicle fleet and the whole transport structure. In May 2007 the Inspector published a report entitled: Thematic Review of Prisoner Transport Services in Western Australia in which forty two wide and detailed recommendations were recorded relating to safety and amenity.

Recent media coverage has understandably tended to speculate about individual fault and failures. In that regard, the Inspector deplores the way in which Government agencies hide behind the fiction that the matter is sub judice until the Coroner has dealt with it, so that basic information of genuine public interest is suppressed. At present the Coroner's Court has a delay of about two years before a custodial death can be heard, but identification of problems and the implementation of remedial action must commence before then.

Indeed, in the long run individual fault or failure is less important than system issues. The point is that the present system is one that is designed to fail and has indeed been constantly failing, though until now by good fortune without the catastrophic consequences of a prisoner's death. The time has come for some lateral thinking and energetic action in this matter. Other jurisdictions such as Queensland utilise air transport regularly for long haul journeys. Passenger-style coaches, suitably adapted for security purposes, are also used in many jurisdictions including some parts of the United States and the UK.

The present system falls short of international minimum standards (the UN Convention on Torture and other forms of Cruel, Unusual and Degrading Punishment and Treatment).

A task force should be appointed by the Government to come up with a complete re-vamp of long-haul custodial transport services and systems in Western Australia. The funds necessary to implement the necessary changes should be committed. These matters should be addressed and implemented within a strict time limit.

Police under scrutiny after Aboriginal custody death

The Age
Andra Jackson
February 2, 2008

Police and private security guards failed in their duty of care by not checking the condition of an Aboriginal elder who died after a gruelling journey in Western Australia, it has been claimed.

A 46-year old elder from the West Australian desert town of Warburton died of a heart attack after being transported 352 kilometres in 43-degree heat in the back of an ageing security van last weekend.

His death in custody has sparked calls for an independent inquiry after it emerged the guards worked for GSL, a private company with previous concerns about its treatment of detainees in transport and in custody.

Mr Ward, whose full name is withheld out of respect for Aboriginal tradition, was stopped by police in the town of Laverton on Saturday night and charged with drink-driving.

The "committed" community leader and father of five was sent the next day to Kalgoorlie in a WA Corrections Department security van to be remanded by a magistrate.

Questions have been raised about the age and condition of the vehicle used and whether its air-conditioning system had broken down.

WA Deaths in Custody Watch Committee chairman Marc Newhouse said: "The police need to come under scrutiny here.

"Did the police actually subject this person to a proper medical examination to assess whether he was in a fit state to travel?"

Charandev Singh, a deaths in custody researcher from Melbourne's Brimbank-Melton Community Legal Service, said: "It was already known that the vehicles in use were seriously defective and they have not monitored him effectively." Last June, WA's Inspector of Custodial Services, Richard Harding, expressed serious concerns about the "parlous state" of the state-owned vehicles.

"He would have become heat stressed and then gone into heatstroke and then died, so you are looking at a period of hours during which time he would have deteriorated and they have not monitored him. They have the capacity to monitor him through the CCTV cameras," Mr Singh said.

Previously, after an official inquiry, five former detainees were awarded compensation after GSL transported them between Maribyrnong and Baxter detention centres in 2004 "without due regard to their deteriorating condition".

Mr Harding yesterday called on the West Australian Government to rethink its arrangements for long-distance transport of people in custody. "The present system falls short of international minimum standards," he said.

Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Foley, the officer in charge at Kalgoorlie, said all aspects of the death, including any medical checks and escort conditions, would be assessed.

http://www.theage.com.au/.../police-under/2008/02/01/1201801035358.html

Private guards 'abused' detainees

The Australian
Paige Taylor
February 02, 2008

THE government contractor behind the transportation of an Aboriginal leader that went fatally wrong in extreme heat in Western Australia last weekend has previously been criticised for the treatment of detainees.

Global Solutions Limited has been accused of the humiliation and sensory deprivation of detainees, who were forced to urinate in their cramped compartments, inadequate provision of food and fluids and the prank strip search of a prisoner.

The death of Ian Ward in the sealed compartment of a "bloody hot" van last Sunday as the outside temperature climbed to 43C has prompted an unprecedented attack on the Carpenter Government by the Inspector of Custodial Services, who said the state's chronically deficient prisoner transport system would probably not be tolerated if 95 per cent of prisoners were white, instead of up to 95 per cent of them being Aboriginal.

Anger is growing in the desert community of Warburton in Western Australia's Ngaanyatjarra Lands over the death of Mr Ward, who collapsed in what may have been an unairconditioned or inadequately airconditioned rear compartment while being transported 352km by GSL.

The van transporting Mr Ward left the town of Laverton about midday for Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison to be remanded in custody on a drink-driving charge when he vomited on himself and fell unconscious.

His body was wheeled into Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital at 4.30pm on Sunday after the two GSL guards in the van found he had collapsed in the back. Witness Jodie Aurisch said a female GSL guard told an emergency department doctor: "It is bloody hot in the back of the van".

GSL and its $70 million prison transport contract with the Carpenter Government are likely to be examined as part of a coronial inquest into Mr Ward's death in custody. It will not be the first time the company faces scrutiny.

In 2005, GSL was fined almost $500,000 over mistreatment of immigration detainees. In 2006, GSL was fined a reported $200,000 after guards at Port Phillip Prison in Victoria jokingly strip searched a prisoner as part of a prank called "Sausagegate".

A federal government report into GSL's transfer of five detainees from Maribyrnong Detention Centre in Melbourne to Baxter Immigration Facility in South Australia over two days in 2004 found the officers involved had not been adequately trained and treated the detainees inhumanely.

In his report into the incident for the Howard government, investigator Keith Hamburger found the van used was unsafe and inhumane and that the detainees had been denied access to toilet facilities, forcing them to urinate in their compartments.

The officers were also found to have ignored appeals for assistance from detainees in distress.

Melbourne legal advocate Chandarev Singh said GSL had shown "a pattern of lethal indifference". GSL's director of public affairs, Tim Hall, said Mr Singh's "inaccurate and unpleasant personal views" did not warrant comment.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23146909-5013404,00.html

Watch Committee wants independent inquiry into van death

ABC Perth | Local News | Story
Posted February 4, 2008 11:23:00

The Deaths in Custody Watch Committee is questioning why a report on transporting prisoners is being done by the Department of Corrective Services rather than an independent person.

The Minister, Margaret Quirk, asked the department to report on whether proper procedures and processes are being followed, after a Warburton elder, Ian Ward, died after being driven in a prison van from Laverton to Kalgoorlie.

The van is part of a government-owned fleet but a private company, Global Solutions, is contracted to run the transport service.

The Chairman of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, Marc Newhouse, says an independent person should be doing the report.

"The overnment is basically investigating itself as well as its sub-contractor," he said.

"We believe it should be an independent inquiry, not just simply a review of the processes and procedures and so it should be a review of the whole contract."

"Really, it ought to be done by a respected prominent person, like a retired Supreme Court judge, or someone of that calibre."

ALS welcomes review

The Aboriginal Legal Service has welcomed the departmental review into prisoner transport.

The Chief Executive of the ALS, Dennis Eggington, has called for the vans not to be used in the meantime, but concedes that may be impossible.

"What people need to do then, is only ... use them under extreme circumstances where it's imperative that people are transported," he said.

Mr Eggington says there should be medical checks beforehand, and afterwards, and prisoners in the vans should be checked at regular intervals.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/04/2153339.htm?site=perth

Guards unaware of van trauma

The West Australian
Ronan O'Connell
4th February 2008, 10:30 WST

The air-conditioning was working in the front cabin of the van transporting an Aboriginal elder who died in custody last week and security guards only realised he was ill when they heard a thump from the rear of the van and pulled over to check on him.

The West Australian understands the van had a surveillance camera which allowed the transport officers to monitor Ian Ward, 46, who collapsed in the van while being transported between Laverton and Kalgoorlie on January 27 and died later in Kalgoorlie hospital.

It is understood officers from contracted transport company Global Solutions Limited did not notice any signs of distress from Mr Ward until they heard a loud thump about 3.10pm and pulled the van over to the side of the Goldfields Highway, about 5km from Kalgoorlie.

They found Mr Ward unconscious and covered in vomit but breathing and decided to drive straight to the hospital rather than try to treat him at the roadside.

The van arrived at the hospital about 3.20pm and Mr Ward was pronounced dead about 4.40pm.

It is understood the air-conditioning in the front of the van was working but police have refused to reveal whether there was functional air-conditioning in the van's sealed rear compartment.

The West Australian understands that the surveillance cameras are only for the monitoring of prisoners by GSL officers, who have a television screen in the front cabin.

The cameras do not record footage and will not provide any evidence for the police investigation, which is being carried out by officers from the major crime squad and Kalgoorlie detectives.

The Coroner's office confirmed on Friday it could be more than a year before the release of the results of a post-mortem examination on the body of Mr Ward.

It is understood the results, which are expected to confirm whether his death was caused by heat stroke, were received by police on Thursday.

Mr Ward, a father of five, was being transferred to face a charge of drinkdriving when temperatures outside the van exceeded 40C. It is understood the van's air-conditioning broke down the previous week and was replaced. The van is in a fleet owned and maintained by the State Government but managed by GSL.

Corrective Services Minister Margaret Quirk has refused to comment on the case but has confirmed the department would conduct a review and report to Parliament. It had budgeted to replace its fleet within three years.

On Saturday, The West Australian revealed that eight prisoners spent at least 4 hours locked in a brokendown vehicle in searing heat in the State's north on New Year's Day.

It is understood a vehicle carrying eight prisoners broke down about 130km south of Broome en-route to Roebourne Regional Prison about 11am on January 1.

http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=146&ContentID=57078

Van death victim's family hires lawyer

ABC NEWS ONLINE
Posted Mon Feb 4, 2008 11:35am AEDT

The family of the Western Australia goldfields man who died while being transported in a prison van has engaged a lawyer to represent it during the investigation into his death.

Warburton elder Ian Ward died about a week ago after collapsing in the back of the van while making a four hour journey in temperatures above 40 degrees.

Family spokesman and fellow elder Livingston West says the family and community is deeply concerned about the circumstances surrounding Mr Ward's death.

He says Mr Ward's family has engaged a lawyer to pursue a full investigation into the death.

"His name is Michael Rinn. He will ask for the coroner to hold a court [inquest] and find out why he died. Mr Rinn will ask to talk for the family in the court and ask questions," he said.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/04/2153613.htm?section=justin

NW lockups used as jail cells, says police chief

The van used to transport the man from Warburton to Kalgoorlie

The West Australian
by Jessica Strutt
7th February 2008, 6:45 WST

WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan has intensified his fight with the State Government over what he labels the misuse of police lockups, saying yesterday many in the Kimberley had become "pseudo prisons" used to hold offenders in cramped conditions for up to two weeks.

In a stinging attack on the Government, he also said it was unacceptable that his officers were forced to transport Kimberley prisoners over long distances in the back of police vans.

Mr O'Callaghan, who has just returned from a tour of Kimberley stations, said police lockups were totally unsuitable for keeping offenders in for long periods because many did not have proper facilities, including beds and air-conditioning.

He intended to raise the issue with the Government, saying the company it contracted to undertake prisoner transport, Global Solutions Limited, was not making enough visits to remote Kimberley areas to clear out the lockups.

Mr O'Callaghan said that while prisoners were let out into open exercise yards at times, they had to spend their nights in the lockup cells.

"We've had prisoners in the Kununurra lockups for up to two weeks waiting for collection ... a typical cell is probably four metres by four metres," he said.

"You have to remember that police lockups are only built for temporary detention like an overnight or something like that to get people to court but ... 11 days is just too long to spend in a place like that, they're not properly air-conditioned.

"It does mean that you've got to have two police officers full-time just managing prisoners in custody, which means they are not on the street.

"They (GSL) are just going to have to do (the extractions of prisoners from lockups) more frequently, that's what we are going to be asking for, so that people are not kept in a lockup for 10 or 12 days at a time."

On prisoner transport, Mr O'Callaghan said police vans were not designed to move prisoners over long distances. "They're designed to get someone from the local pub to the police station, not to drive them for four hours when they have to with a high-risk prisoner from Halls Creek to Broome," he said.

"They are very small and they are very cramped . . . they are designed to transfer people for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, not for six hours (and) I think that's untenable."

Mr O'Callaghan's comments came after he had already set himself on a collision course with the Government last week, revealing that under-age offenders would no longer be held in lockups to ease pressure on the State's two overcrowded children's jails.

He has told the Department of Corrective Services that police would no longer accept children at lockups if juvenile detention centres were full.

http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=146&ContentID=57523

Too many in jail for drive crime: Bowler

The West Australian
11th February 2008, 13:45 WST
by Georgia Loney

The death of Aboriginal elder Ian Ward in the back of a prison transport van highlights the unacceptable number of Aboriginal people imprisoned for driving offences, says Murchison-Eyre MLA John Bowler.

Mr Ward collapsed in the back of a van travelling between Laverton and Kalgoorlie on January 27 when temperatures reached more than 40 degrees.

The Warburton man had spent Australia Day with family in Laverton when he was picked up for drink driving with a blood alcohol reading nearly four times the legal limit.

Already serving a suspended sentence for a driving offence, Mr Ward was arrested and remanded in custody to be transported to Kalgoorlie.

Mr Bowler demanded to know why Mr Ward's case could not have been handled in Laverton.

"Everyone is asking whether there was air-conditioning in the back of the van, but what I want to know why he, at the cost of thousands of dollars, was driven 250km away from family rather than the case being dealt with swiftly by the courts in Laverton and sent on his way," Mr Bowler said.

"People get picked up for drink driving in Kalgoorlie-Boulder all the time, they don't necessarily get jailed for drink driving.

"The cost of that van going to Laverton would probably be more than the most severe drink driving fine."

Mr Bowler said the case highlighted the big number of Aboriginal people jailed for driving offences - in particular for driving without a licence.

Aboriginal people in outlying communities were repeatedly jailed for driving without a licence or driving while under suspension, Mr Bowler said.

"Jails are full of Aboriginal people who are getting caught for driving without a white man's piece of paper," he said.

"We seem to have a society more worried about breaching our regulations than people in vicious assaults."

Mr Bowler called on Attorney General Jim McGinty to take action on the dire situation.

"Jim McGinty is aware of this," he said. "I organised a meeting for Ngaanyatjarraku shire president Damien McLean to meet Jim McGinty on this issue more than a year ago and still nothing has been done.

"Jim McGinty should be moving swiftly on this."

http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=146&ContentID=58047

Plea for swift inquest of elder death

The Australian
Amanda O'Brien, WA political reporter
February 16, 2008

WEST Australian Coroner Alastair Hope has been asked to fast-track an inquest into the death of Aboriginal elder Ian Ward, who collapsed and died last month while he was being transported in searing heat in the back of a prison van.

Attorney-General Jim McGinty took the unusual step of writing to Mr Hope this week because of the massive public interest and the potential impact his findings could have on the way prisoners are transported.

The coroner must hold inquests into all deaths in custody, but it could take up to two years to find answers if the hearing is not expedited.

Mr McGinty told The Weekend Australian it was one of the most disturbing deaths in custody he had encountered because of the circumstances and the lack of reliable information.

"There are so many unanswered questions, from the state of the van to the attitudes of staff. I still don't even know whether the airconditioning was turned on in the van," he said.

Mr Ward, 46, a respected elder and father of five from the Ngaanyatjarraku lands 1500km northeast of Perth, died after a four-hour trip through the Goldfields in a sealed compartment when the outside temperature was 43C. He was being taken from remote Laverton to Kalgoorlie on a drink-driving charge.

A witness claimed one of his guards later told hospital staff it was "bloody hot" in the back of the van.

Mr McGinty said the death had profound implications for public policy. "Why was he being transported in the first place? It wasn't a trial. It was a mention."

He was concerned also about the impact of a long delay on Mr Ward's family. "When you have so much uncertainty and controversy, the effect on the family can be devastating," he said.

Mr Ward was one of the last nomads born in the Gibson Desert, but was also one of the most westernised and widely travelled of the Ngaanyatjarra leadership, who banned alcohol on their lands, acquired long leases over large areas and ran cars on aviation fuel to stamp out petrol sniffing.

In an interview with The Weekend Australian in 2006, Mr Ward said cultural survival was his priority.

"I would like my children and my people to maintain their cultural values: the law, the connection to the land," he said.

"They know they are a part of Australia, but the most important thing for them is their cultural values. There should be a recognition on the part of Australia at large of that value. We have two worlds that people here live in: the traditional way and the Australian citizen way. I want my children also to live in those two worlds."

His death has caused deep anger in his remote community. The Ngaanyatjarraku Council has already hired a barrister to represent them at the inquest.

A funeral will be held on February 29.

Mr McGinty said the tragedy placed emphasis on the need for more video-conferencing in the justice system.

He said he had discussed the video-conferencing issue with Chief Justice Wayne Martin, who he said was very keen to move down that path.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23222333-5013172,00.html

Minister promises reforms after death in custody

Green Left Weekly
Annolies Truman, Perth
22 February 2008

A February 22 meeting between Western Australian prisons minister Margaret Quirk, Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Dennis Eggington and WA Deaths in Custody Watch Committee chairperson Marc Newhouse resulted in some ministerial promises of reforms following the the death in custody of an Aboriginal elder on January 27.

The elder, from the desert town of Warburton, died after collapsing in the back of a prison van while being transported for four hours in 43oC heat to a jail in the outback city of Kalgoorlie. He had been arrested on January 26 for alleged drink-driving while visiting relatives in the remote town of Laverton, 352 kilometres north of Kalgoorie.

The van was driven and staffed by employees of Global Solutions Ltd, an Anglo-French prison management company, which the WA government has contracted to transport prisoners.

Professor Richard Harding, the WA government's inspector of custodial services, told the news media on January 29 that he was not surprised at the Warburton elder's death, given the state of the prisoner transport fleet. He said that the "government-owned vans are continually breaking down, leaving prisoners stranded in searingly hot conditions in remote areas".

Among other things, Quirk has agreed to overhaul procedures followed when a prisoner is transported. New procedures, to be in place by March 14, will include a health assessment and provision of water and food.

Newhouse told Green Left Weekly that "there have been some steps forward, but a lot of unanswered questions. We have to keep the pressure on the government."

After NSW, WA has the highest rate of Aboriginal prisoner deaths from apparent unnatural causes - about six deaths for every 10,000 prisoners. The national rate is five in 10,000 prisoners.

Eggington told Green Left Weekly that "there is no excuse for Aboriginal people dying in the back of a lock-up. It's more than time for the full implementation" of the recommendations of the 1987-1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

http://www.greenleft.org.au/2008/741/38354

WA unveils prisoner transport changes

The West Australian
26th February 2008, 18:09 WST

The death of an Aboriginal man in custody has sparked a number of changes to Western Australia's prisoner transport services after a review by the WA Department of Corrective Services.

Ian Ward, 46, of Warburton in the Goldfields, died during a Global Solutions Ltd (GSL) transfer from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in hot conditions on January 27.

It is unclear if the air conditioning in the van was off, or faulty.

Drivers of the van took Mr Ward, who had been picked up for drink driving on Australia Day, to Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital after they found him collapsed. He died a short time later.

The review was not an inquiry into Mr Ward's death but was necessary to give the community some assurance that prisoner transport was as safe and humane as possible, WA Corrective Services Minister Margaret Quirk said.

A number of measures, including breaks in journeys of more than two hours, physical checks and interaction with prisoners during journey breaks will be implemented by March 28.

"After a stringent review of operating procedures which have duty of care implications, I have directed that additional measures be implemented by March 28," Ms Quirk said.

The Department of Corrective Services will have to obtain advice from WA police to ensure everyone leaving custody is fit to travel by March 14.

All vehicles used to transport prisoners will undergo comprehensive roadworthiness tests and have remote temperature monitoring from offender compartments to the staff cab, as well as fail safe duress buttons fitted by May 31.

"I have also directed that all options for expediting the full replacement of the fleet be considered and progressed," Ms Quirk said.

WA Custodial Services Inspector Richard Harding wrote to GSL last year outlining six concerns including "GSL's capacity to cope with the logistical challenge of running a transport service across such huge distances as are involved with WA."

Mr Harding described the government-owned fleet which GSL would have to rely on as "parlous".

AAP

http://www.thewest.com.au/aapstory.aspx?StoryName=463026

Prisoner transport to change

ABC ONLINE NEWS
Posted Tue Feb 26, 2008 7:46pm AEDT

The State Government is to change the way prisoners are transported following the death of an Aboriginal man in a prison van.

46-year-old Warburton elder, Ian Ward, died in the van which was being driven from Laverton to Kalgoorlie late last month.

A departmental review, tabled in Parliament this afternoon, makes 18 recommendations that include checking all vehicles for roadworthiness and installing temperature monitoring.

The Corrective Services Minister, Margaret Quirk, says the Government will follow the recommendations of the review.

"It is highly regrettable and indeed tragic that this review has been prompted by a death in custody," she said.

"But I am determined that we will make the necessary improvements to the system to reduce to the greatest extent possible the likelihood of a similar incident in the future."

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/26/2173368.htm

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