_From 1987 to 1991 Australia held a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC).
The Commission studied and reported on the high level of deaths of Aboriginal people whilst in custody after being arrested or convicted of committing crimes. This included suicide, natural causes, medical conditions and injuries caused by police.
One major finding of this Royal Commission was that the actions of police officers were not the direct cause of these deaths.
_Terrance Daniel Briscoe died shortly after being arrested by police on Thursday, 5th January. On the same day, his uncle, Daniel Taylor, wrote this letter to Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson this letter demanding an explanation.
Terrance Daniel Briscoe.
Date: Thu, Jan 5, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Subject: An Easy Death in Protective Custody - Terrance Daniel Briscoe, 5/1/2012
Hon Paul Raymond Henderson MLA
Dear Chief Minister,
Re: The death in protective custody in Alice Springs of Terrance Daniel Briscoe, 5/1/2012
It was not an easy death for Terrance Daniel Briscoe, aged 28, early this morning Thursday 5th January 2012 in protective custody at the Alice Springs police lockup.
But for the people of Alice Springs, Terry's death is as unremarkable as so much of road kill on the Stuart Highway, which cuts through town on it's way from Adelaide to Darwin. All the respectable folk in town could get pissed to their hearts content at the local pub, and perhaps catch a taxi home, blissfully unaware of the events in the lockup down the road. For Aboriginal people, and for Mr Briscoe in particular 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.
The police say Terry injured his head by falling while in custody and later died of cardiac arrest. He was only 28. Terry's friends who were arrested with him say they saw five officers bash him.
Wonder we all do how Terry was healthy when arrested, and zipped into a body bag when released.
How and why? How Terry died will no doubt be the matter of much dispute. Will the police be able to collaborate on their stories? Or if the investigation is to be worth it's salt are they to be separated and put off duty while the investigation proceeds.
Why didn't Terry receive any medical attention for his injuries?
And why was Terry arrested at all. Is the Northern Territory zero tolerance policy on public drinking, just a policy for locking up Aboriginal people? If the intervention is forcing Aboriginal people to migrate off their homelands and come to Alice Springs, that's not a reason to lock them up in protective custody. And how protective is protective custody? Since the Northern Territory Intervention did away with the Community Development Employment Program, it has reduced the capacity of local Aboriginal communities to support their members in all of their situations and difficulties, including support and help for those who are drunk.
Most of us have been drunk at some stage in our lives, but for Terry it meant being taken into protective custody. I've met many indigenous people who literally don't touch a drop over the last several decades. The indigenous community has the highest rate of non-drinkers of all the community groups in Australia. Many leave drinking later in life and there is no reason Terry could not have done the same.
If the information that Terry Briscoe was subjected to a bashing is proven, then there is every reason to believe that it has something to do with his subsequent death.
If Terry had been alive 50 years ago men like him would have been the backbone of the Northern Territory economy, and one hundred years ago men like him would have been warriors of their tribes, knowledgable, fit and capable men.
Now Terry has been reduced to another death in protective custody. Australia is diminished for it.
I ask that your government ensure that Terry's death is not in vain. A thorough and impartial investigation must be carried out to ensure that the whole truth of the circumstances of his death are investigated and the truth achieved. Any death in custody, especially given the circumstances here, is to be treated as a homicide unless it is shown to be otherwise. That means that the investigation must proceed with serious intent to get to the truth at all costs.
Terrance was my nephew by marriage.
DEATH IN CUSTODY