Review into Palm Island death case

December 22, 2006

The Queensland government will order an independent review of the decision by its top prosecutor not to charge a police sergeant over the death of Mulrunji Doomadjee on Palm Island.

But Mr Doomadgee's family says it wants the review conducted outside Queensland to ensure it is "fully independent".

Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine today said he would seek an independent review of the decision by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leanne Clare not to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over Mulrunji's death in 2004.

He said Ms Clare had agreed to provide him with her file on the case, allowing him to commission an independent review.

The move was a major backflip from the DPP, who last night insisted she would not seek an external review of her decision because "the evidence does not support a prosecution".

Mr Shine said Ms Clare had unexpectedly offered to hand over the file.

"Once the offer was made, I thought it was my responsibility to accept it due to the level of community consternation regarding this case," he said.

Mr Shine said he would refer the file to the crown solicitor to commission an independent review of the material.

The crown solicitor would choose who would head the review, which was expected to be made public when parliament resumes in February.

Details were expected to be released in the coming days.

The Palm Island community, off Townsville in north Queensland, had called for an second opinion into Ms Clare's decision during angry rallies on the island on Wednesday.

Doomadgee family lawyer Frederic Cassis today said they were pleased with plans for a review.

"But it is concerned to make sure whoever is appointed to conduct the independent review is fully independent," he said.

"We're calling for it to be taken out of Queensland first thing and secondly, that it be headed by a retired High Court judge, for example, Justice (Michael) McHugh or Chief Justice (Sir Anthony) Mason.

"Ultimately what the family wants is for charges to be brought against Chris Hurley."

A coroner in September found Snr Sgt Hurley was responsible for landing the fatal blows which caused Mulrunji's death in the island's watchhouse in November 2004.

Premier Peter Beattie, who has repeatedly refused to interfere in the DPP's decision, said Ms Clare's move was a "way forward" which protected her independence.

"I would appeal to everybody, whether it's indigenous Australians, whether it's the police union, everybody, just to allow this due process to follow course," he said.

But Queensland Police Union vice president Denis Fitzpatrick said getting a second opinion would be a waste of time.

"I am very confident that this independent review will come up with exactly the same conclusions of Leanne Clare," he said.

Mr Fitzpatrick would not say whether he thought Mr Beattie had pushed the DPP into handing over the file, but said: "The premier's obviously sacrificed principles for political expediency."

Opposition legal affairs spokesman Mark McArdle also expressed concerns about political interference.

"Ms Clare needs to explain why she has now changed her position," he said.