Palm Island review chief may come from interstate

THE Queensland Government has left the door open to an outsider reviewing a decision not to charge a policeman with the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee, just days after Peter Beattie said it was "silly" to suggest the appointment had to come from interstate.

With Mr Beattie on holidays and John Howard suggesting an interstate appointment "would make a lot of sense", Attorney-General Kerry Shine has now drawn up a short list of six people to conduct the review, including "a number" from outside Queensland.

Acting Premier Anna Bligh yesterday said the "perceived independence" of the appointment was vital.

Mr Shine said the most important part of the Government's decision was the "perceived distance" that the person to be appointed had from the Director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare, rather than from Queensland.

Mr Shine had appointed two legal figures - Brisbane barrister Peter Davis and former chief judge Pat Shanahan - to examine how Ms Clare had arrived at her decision not to prosecute Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, after Deputy Coroner Christine Clements had found him responsible for Doomadgee's death in a Palm Island police cell in November 2004.

But Mr Shanahan stood down after it was revealed in The Australian that he had been on the selection panel that appointed Ms Clare.

The DPP, after examining material from the inquest and new evidence that has yet to be disclosed, last month announced that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Sergeant Hurley.

Her decision brought outrage from Aboriginal leaders, who organised statewide protest marches, after which Mr Shine sought the Palm Island files from Ms Clare and announced the review.

Mr Shine said it was quite possible that the review could come up with a different conclusion to that reached by Ms Clare.

"The point of the review is seeking a second opinion of another expert and, of course, lawyers do differ in their views," he said.

"So it is quite possible that some people come up with a different opinion.

"It is not a question of examination of conduct or misconduct by the DPP or anything of that nature. Let's wait and see what that opinion is."

Ms Bligh said the Government had started contacting people on the short list yesterday afternoon, but the holiday season was frustrating the search.

An appointment is still expected to be made this week.

"Unfortunately, at this time of year it is not always easy to make direct contact with people in these positions," she said. "But we are making every effort to be in a position as early as possible to make that appointment.

"Can I say to the people of Palm Island and to the families affected by this issue, that there is an expectation that this will be resolved as quickly as possible."

Ms Bligh said it was essential that the person who the Government eventually appointed enjoyed the respect of the legal and the broader communities.

"I'm not looking at state borders. The primary consideration is to find the best person."