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Family demands independent investigation into death in custody in Alice Springs Hospital

The family of Arabana man, Peter Clarke, issued a call today for the Northern Territory Government to launch an independent enquiry into his death in Alice Springs Hospital. He was 56 year old.

Mr Clarke died on Tuesday 3 April 2012. He'd been due for parole on 26 March 2012 but was hospitalised on 19 March.

When Peter Clarke's younger brother Wayne and sister Gladys visited the hospital, they were shocked to find their brother cuffed by the ankle to the hospital bed. A Corrections Officer was also standing guard at the door. He was kept like this for the first two days he spent in the Intensive Care Unit. Clarke's eldest daughter, Kylie Hampton, who is the family spokesperson, described this treatment as "appalling and inexcusable."

After the death, a doctor told the family a Coroner might need to do an autopsy as the death could be treated as a death in custody. But the death would not be investigated. His family was told Mr Clarke was "a free man" as of 26 March. The family disputes this, as Mr Clarke could not sign his release forms due to being in an induced coma.

Ray Jackson, President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, speaks about on deaths in custody, shackling and tasers. Filmed by Peter Boyle for Green Left TV at a protest in Sydney on July 27 to mark the death in custody of Peter Clarke in the Northern Territory.

Mr Clarke had been in jail for 3 and half years. He was jailed for possession of an ounce of marijuana. Ms Hampton said her father was "looking forward to his parole so that he could get on with his life, travel and see his children." She is angry that he spent his last conscious hours shackled in leg irons.

The facts leading up to Mr Clarke's death have left the family with many questions.

Why was a man sick enough to be in intensive care shackled to the hospital bed? Did Mr Clarke receive proper treatment while in custody for his diabetes? Could there have been early warnings to suggest Mr Clarke had cancer? Did Corrections follow all of their protocols?

They are calling for Corrections to release his medical records and for these to be compared with the records made by Alice Springs Hospital in time leading up to his death.

Peter Clarke was from Arabana nation. The Arabana people are the traditional owners of a large part of South Australia, including Lake Eyre. His mother Thelma Ahchee, was Arabana and was born in Anna Creek in South Australia an lived in Ooodnadatta with her mother and father until she moved to Alice Spring's in her teenage years where she is now laid to rest. His father, Keith Clarke, was a non-indigenous man from Sydney. Thelma, a single mother, provided for and raised 14 children. Peter grew up in Alice Springs and spent most of his life in the Northern Territory.

Kylie Hampton says the family wants the Minister for Correctional Services, Gerald McCarthy, to launch an independent inquiry into events leading up to her father's death. "My family wants to expose the flawed nature of the system and wants justice," she said.

Audio Podcast NT authorities ducking death in custody investigation for Mr Clarke
(ABC AM - Audio and Transcript)

TIMELINE

Peter Alexander Clarke
Date of Birth: 24th August 1956
Parole release date: 26th March 2012

17th March - Visit by Aunty Glad (Dads eldest sister) to Alice Springs Prison

18th March - Visit by Aunty Gladys to Alice Springs Prison - signs of continuous coughing (emphysema)

19th March - Dad admitted to Alice Springs Hospital. Visit at 7pm by Aunty Glad and Uncle Wayne (Dad's youngest brother) to Alice Springs Hospital. Uncle Wayne stated that Dad's left ankle was hand cuffed to the end of the hospital bed and was like this for the next two days whilst in I.C.U.

Ask if Corrections followed their protocols?

Subpoena his release/parole records from Corrections.

Dad also had diabetes so he should have been followed up at the prison from the Doctor. Could there have been an early warning from his medical information from Corrections to suggest that Dad had Cancer?

20th March - Aunty Gladys to Alice Springs Hospital. Doctors advised that Dad needed to be sedated to help him breathe as he couldn't breathe normally due to diagnosing him with Emphysema and Pneumonia. Previously Dad was admitted into Alice Springs Hospital with Pneumonia in October 2011.

22nd March - Peter Clarke Jnr found out Dad was in ICU and visited him. This day he then messaged me to let me know how serious Dad was. This was the first time we found out he was in I.C.U.

Subpoena his medical records from Corrections.

26th March - I flew to Alice Springs, I was advised by Doctor Raj that Dad would not live for long. Dr Raj called a meeting once all family was there and stated he had Emphysema, and pneumonia that he had had for obviously quiet some time

He also gave us the inevitable, which was that the CT Scan showed signs Dad had cancer and that it was on both lungs and his condition was worsening.

Was there conflicting information from the Hospital to his Corrections medical records?

2nd April - I was advised by Dr Raj that palliative care needs to be considered

3rd April - Dad passed away early in the morning at 6am on 3rd April 2012.

5th April - My brother Peter and I started planning funeral proceedings

6th April - I rang Dr Raj to let him know we needed my father's body released to funeral services so we can go ahead with arrangements. I was advised by Hospital we could not plan a date due to the Coroner needing to do an Autopsy as "this could be treated as a death in custody". Dr Raj said "he will ring the coroner and will ring me back".

7th April - I asked Dr Raj if he could follow this up and advise what the process is as I explained we desperately wanted to put my Dad to rest.

8th April - Dr Raj rang me and advised that this will not be treated in a "Deaths in Custody" due to his release date being 26th March and was a "free man as of midnight".

How could he be a free man if Dad could not sign his release forms due to being in an induced coma?

20th April - Dad's Funeral at Alice Springs Catholic Church.

8th June - Corrections Apologised to Aunty Glad on her loss.

Why didn't Corrections advise Dad's children of their loss?

For media interviews contact family representatives
Uncle Wayne Clarke (brother) - Home phone: 89536057 Mobile: 0457819749
Aunty Gladys Appo (sister) - Home phone: 89551316 Mobile: 0488296130
Kylie Hampton (daughter) - Mobile: 0448886249 Email: hamptonkylie@ymail.com
Marilyn Davies (sister) - Mobile: 0411398760

Stop Aboriginal Deaths in Custody National Network
Sydney: Ray Jackson, President, Indigenous Social Justice Association, 0450 651 063
Melbourne: Alison Thorne, Indigenous Social Justice Association Melbourne, 0411 080 031
Perth: Bruce Campbell, WA Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, 0409 947 457