In Legal Affairs

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett

Interim Ex-Gratia Payment For Family Of Mr. Ward

Victor P Taffa

The Western Australia State Government has decided today to offer a $200,000 interim ex-gratia payment to the family of respected Aboriginal elder Mr. Ward who died in the back of a prison van in January 2008.

Premier Colin Barnett said a decision on a full ex-gratia payment would soon be made.

The Premier said the request for an interim payment was dealt with as quickly as possible after the Aboriginal Legal Service asked for the payment on Mr Ward’s family’s behalf on January 15 this year.

“This interim payment will help Mr Ward’s family with their day to day living until a final payment can be made. Attorney General Christian Porter is working with the Aboriginal Legal Service to finalise this as soon as possible.” Premier Barnett said.

 

“This was a tragic and avoidable situation that resulted partially because of neglect of the prison vehicle fleet by the previous government. Its conscious decision not to invest in the fleet despite knowing the safety issues that presented was the wrong choice to make.”

“To that end this interim payment, and the final payment that is to come, is a wholly appropriate action by this Government.”

“In addition to directly addressing the issue of an ex-gratia payment, this Government has reversed a decision that the previous government made not to replace the prisoner transportation vehicle fleet.”

“So far, 16 of 40 vehicles have been replaced and this Government is on track to replace all of these vehicles by the end of this year.”

On June 12, 2009, the Coroner made 14 recommendations to improve our custodial justice system and help ensure offenders are treated humanely and safely while in the custody of the State.

The Liberal-National Government has supported all 14 of the Coroner’s recommendations in principle. Actions that have been implemented or are under way include:

  • Drafting of laws to empower the Inspector for Custodial Services to audit a percentage of the prison population every year
  • A review of the Bail Act 1982 to ensure bail processes are still appropriate and workable, particularly for people living in remote communities
  • Improvements and clarification on the governance processes surrounding the appointment of Police officers and their role and responsibilities
  • Enhancing training for Justices of the Peace performing judicial functions, including improving cultural awareness of approved applicants
  • Investigating the adoption of a two-tier Justice of the Peace model to separate judicial responsibilities from the administrative duties of Justices of the Peace
  • Investigating the introduction of a centrally located judicial service to be available via audiovisual facilities to respond to the needs of regional and remote communities
  • The entire fleet of prisoner transportation vehicles is in the process of being replaced with new vehicles with additional safety features that are more appropriate for Western Australian conditions
  • All G4S policies and procedures relating to the welfare of detainees and duty of care have been reviewed and amended where necessary. These policies and procedures are now subject to annual review
  • DCS has already increased the number of monitors available to undertake the audit and/or review of transport and court services in regional and metropolitan areas from two to five personnel. A business case for additional contract monitors is being developed and will be considered as part of, and subject to, the normal budgetary processes
  • DCS has directed G4S to address training requirements contained in the Coroner’s recommendation. The department is monitoring this training to ensure it is undertaken as required. This action plan includes additional supervisor training and the recommendations of the Coroner will, where appropriate, be incorporated into any future contract for services.

The Department of Corrective Services is currently working on the new tender for when the G4S contract expires in 2011.

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