The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) NSW announced on 10 August that it was applying to the NSW Supreme Court to have a charge laid against a Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) officer, who shot a Wiradjuri man in the back, upgraded from manslaughter to murder.
To charge a prison guard with the murder of a First Nations detainee is unprecedented in Australia. Indeed, charging the prison guard with manslaughter in relation to the death in February last year was already a first in itself.
“This development means that there’s substantial evidence that the corrective officer involved had the intent to murder,” said Paul Silva, whose been campaigning for reform around Aboriginal deaths in custody since his uncle died at Long Bay Gaol in 2015.
In response to the recent development, the union representing prison officers, the Public Services Association, announced more than 5,000 guards would be holding a 24-hour strike last Friday.
According to Silva, the response was appalling. “I can’t imagine how the family actually feels to have 5,000 of his colleagues condemn the act of upgrading the charge”. And he added that the NSW corrective services minister ought to have intervened.
The count being kept by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) puts the number of First Nations deaths in the custody of either police or corrections officers at 498 since the handing down of the 339 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.
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