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Aboriginal death in custody inquest begins for Kwementyaye Briscoe

Terrance Briscoe's two grandmothers outside the coronial inquest - Patsy Morton and Janie Briscoe
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Mr Briscoe's two grandmothers

Kwementyaye (Terrance) Briscoe, 28, died after being taken into protective custody in January this year. The inquest is now underway at the Northern Territory Coroners Court, Alice Springs.

Day 1. Witnesses saw police officers assaulting Mr Briscoe before he died - Footage showed he was bleeding from the head and did not receive any medical treatment. He was placed face down on a mattress and not checked for more than two hours ...

Day 2. A man taken into custody at the same time said Mr Briscoe did not have a cut on his head when he arrived and later saw him dragged to a cell. A man in the opposite cell said he heard Mr Briscoe groaning and gasping for air. He requested aid for him by police but his pleas were ignored ...

Day 3. Forensic physician said Mr Briscoe had a blood alcohol content of 0.375, enough to be potentially fatal. He described police care of Mr Briscoe as inadequate. A second Doctor said it was possible Mr Briscoe may have died from airway obstruction, a combination of having suffocated and having fluid in his lungs.

Kwementyaye Briscoe - Aboriginal Death in Custody - 4th January 2012
Coronial Inquest, Alice Springs NT - Daily Reports

CORONIAL INQUEST DAY 1

Aboriginal death in custody inquest begins

Allyson Horn ABC News June 12, 2012

An inquest into the death of an Aboriginal man in police custody in Alice Springs has heard he may have died from suffocation.

Kwementyaye (Terrance) Briscoe, 28, died after being taken into protective custody in January this year for being drunk.

Mr Briscoe's family say witnesses saw police officers assaulting him in the central Australian town's watch-house before he died.

The family asked Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson for an independent investigation into his death but the request was denied.

Family and friends of the dead man packed the Alice Springs Coroner's Court for the first day of the inquest.

Some cried as the court saw security footage taken in the police watch house on the night of Mr Briscoe's death.

The footage showed Mr Briscoe was bleeding from the head but the court was told he did not receive any medical treatment.

The court heard Mr Briscoe was placed face down on a mattress in a police cell and left in an awkward position with his neck twisted against a concrete block.

The court also heard Mr Briscoe was not checked in his cell for more than two hours, which is against police procedure.

When he was checked, he was found to be unconscious and was pronounced dead a short time later.

Counsel assisting the Coroner told the court it would hear pathology evidence suggesting Mr Briscoe died from suffocation.

Today the court heard from the officer in charge of the investigation into the death, Acting Superintendent Scott Pollock.

He told the court Mr Briscoe showed signs of physical and emotional distress after being bought into custody and that Mr Briscoe should have received medical assessment.

An affidavit from a senior Northern Territory Police official was also tendered, in which the official apologises to Mr Briscoe's family for not providing adequate care.

The Coroner will hear evidence from at least 25 witnesses.

The hearing continues ...

CORONIAL INQUEST DAY 2

Man dragged to cell before dying, court told


Expand Painting

Robert Campbell Junior
'Death in custody'

Inset: Terrance Briscoe
Larger View

Allyson Horn ABC News June 13th, 2012

An inquest into the death of an Aboriginal man in police custody has been told he was dragged to a police cell.

The coronial inquiry has heard evidence from other people detained at the Alice Springs police watch-house at the time of the incident.

Kwementyaye Briscoe, 27, died while in police custody on January 5.

The Northern Territory Coroners Court today heard from a man who was taken into protective custody on the same night as Mr Briscoe.

They were taken to the watch-house together in a police van.

The man told the court Mr Briscoe seemed drunk but he did not see a cut on his head.

He also reaffirmed a statement he had made earlier this year that he saw police drag Mr Briscoe through the watch-house.

Other people in the watch-house at the time have given evidence that Mr Briscoe was bleeding from his head when police took him to a cell .

One man, who was in a cell opposite to Mr Briscoe, told the court he heard Mr Briscoe groaning and gasping for air.

He said he asked police officers on several occasions to check on Mr Briscoe and give him medical attention.

He said his requests were ignored.

The man said he was concerned about Mr Briscoe's welfare.

Coroner Greg Cavanagh said he would rely on security camera footage from inside the police station when there were inconsistencies in witness statements.

The hearing continues ...

CORONIAL INQUEST - DAY 3

Death in custody case police action 'inadequate'

Kwementyaye (Terrance) Briscoe

Allyson Horn ABC News June 15th, 2012

The Northern Territory Coroner has heard a man in police custody had a dangerous level of alcohol in his blood when he died.

Kwementyaye Briscoe, 27, died in police protective custody at the Alice Springs police watch-house in January.

At an inquest into his death, forensic physician Doctor Morris Odell said Mr Briscoe had a blood alcohol content of 0.375, enough to be potentially fatal.

He told the court Mr Briscoe could not look after himself, and that a fall in the police station could have resulted in a loss of consciousness.

Doctor Odell said police should have recognised Mr Briscoe needed medical attention, and that a timely response may well have prevented his death.

He described police care of Mr Briscoe as inadequate.

He told the court there were several red flags that Mr Briscoe needed medical attention and that an ambulance should have been called.

Forensic pathologist Dr Terence Sinton told Coroner Greg Cavanagh he believed Mr Briscoe died of acute alcohol intoxication.

The Court also heard from another forensic pathologist, who was employed by an Aboriginal legal aid service, as a second opinion.

Dr Johann de Flou said it was possible Mr Briscoe may have died from airway obstruction, a combination of having suffocated and having fluid in his lungs.

Earlier, the court had been told by other prisoners in the watch-house that they had seen police officers dragging Mr Briscoe to a cell.

Some said they had asked police to call for medical help but they were ignored.

The inquest continues ...

PRE COLONIAL INQUEST REPORTS

Terrance's tragic Death in Custody:
'Was Terrance bashed to death by Alice Springs police?' includes article by Ray Jackson
'Accountability and justice for death' More articles regarding Terrance's death in custody

Terrance Briscoe, dead for being Black

Patrick Langosch Socialist Alternative 23rd January 2012

On 4 January Anmatyerre Aboriginal man Terrance Daniel Briscoe, 28, was arrested for public drunkenness outside an Alice Springs supermarket by NT police and taken into "protective custody". At 2am the next morning he was found dead in his cell.

Initially the police claimed Terrance fell, causing a head injury which later led to a heart attack. Later they revised their story stating he died of a "lung complication".

Could Terrance's fall have been similar to the fall Cameron Doomadgee suffered on Palm Island - the kind involving a police officer's knee hitting you hard enough to cleave your liver in two? Perhaps what witnesses described as being beaten in a cell by 5 police officers is now euphemistically called a "lung complication"?

If Terrance was injured, why was he not given medical attention? In fact, why was he locked up in the first place? The NT has several "sobering up centres" to provide proper care for intoxicated people, why was he not taken to one?

Terrance's uncle, Daniel Taylor, put it clearly in a letter to the chief minister of the Northern Territory:

All the respectable folk in town could get pissed to their hearts content at the local pub ... blissfully unaware of the events in the lockup down the road. For Aboriginal people ... it's the usual story of a casual drink with friends, then being taken into protective custody by police, conflicting reports of a bashing or a fall in custody, no medical care, and a one way trip to the cemetery.

Terrance died because he was Aboriginal - had he been a white tourist he probably would have never seen the inside of the paddy wagon.

The Doing Time - Time for Doing report released last year found aboriginal people were significantly more likely to be arrested for trivial matters and far less likely to receive cautions. Statistics from 2011 showed that in Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprised 26 percent of the total prison population despite making only 2.5 percent of the total population. The statistics were even more alarming for juveniles - making up to 80 percent in some jurisdictions.

In 1991 the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody made 339 recommendations to prevent deaths in custody. In the 20 years after the report there were 269 deaths (one every month on average) and the incarceration rate of indigenous people has doubled.

Wether it was outright murder or neglect, responsibility for Terrance's death lies with the racism of the misnamed Australian "justice" system and its hired thugs, the police.