NSW rejects key recommendations of Indigenous custody inquiry

  • Aim to achieve parity in the prison rates of Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people by 2031;
  • Amend legislation so that arrest would be an act of last resort;
  • Mandate coroners to make findings as to whether the risk of a person’s death could have been avoided if the recommendations of the royal commission had been implemented;
  • Expand the scope of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) to fully investigate deaths in custody; and
  • Amend legislation to create a senior statutory First Nations position to work across the LECC.

In its response, the government said it was aiming to reduce the incarceration rate of Indigenous people by 15 per cent as per the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, and that existing arrest laws strike a balance between personal liberty and community safety.

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The rejection of additional investigative powers for the LECC defies one of the key recommendations made by the inquiry to improve the oversight of deaths in custody.

“The best way forward the committee agreed on was to expand the functions of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission to undertake full investigations in relation to deaths in custody, with appropriate resourcing and support,” wrote committee chair, Labor MLC Adam Searle, when the report was released in April.

The government refused to relax legislation affecting offensive language, but it did say it would consider how the laws were policed regarding Aboriginal people. It also said it would investigate whether someone’s Aboriginality should be a factor when considering bail.

The response to a recommendation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 was non-committal with the government saying it was continuing to consider the move.

However, the government conceded that more needed to be done to help Indigenous women exiting prison and promised additional funding for support programs.

“A further $323,905 will be provided over two years to support expansion of the Miranda Project to a further location in Sydney and an additional $60,000 to evaluate the new model, which builds on the success of the program to date,” the response said.

It also supported calls to increase funding for the coroner to better investigate deaths in custody, and to review prison health services.


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