Trial By Media - History - 21st Century - Chris Hurley

Chris Hurley

In 2004 Australian police officer 115 kg Senior Sargeant Chris Hurley was supervising a prisoner at a watchhouse. The prisoner had punched Hurley in the jaw when exiting the police vehicle and struggled to escape leading to missing a step into the watchhouse and both Hurley and the prisoner falling in. The prisoner died in the jail cell that day. An early media article gave unretracted allegations that the deceased's face looked like it was beaten beyond recognition even though this was later contradicted by medical evidence in the coroner's report (the only visible injury to the face was a small cut above an eye). The media construct suggested a racially motivated beating to death. The deceased was an indigenous Australian. However Hurley was working at in an aboriginal community after a series of postings where he voluntarily worked at aboriginal communities., his peers advised that he enjoyed assisting the aboriginal community and was well known for his work with aboriginal children., aboriginal activist Murrandoo Yanner advised that Hurley wasn't a racist and the Indigenous communities that he had worked in loved him, and he made contributions to the Federal Parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs approximately a year before the incident complaining about failure to implement an aboriginal death in custody inquiry recommendation. The media downplayed the possibility that the death was caused by the fall even though all medical experts at the inquest allowed for the possibility and emphasised allegations of punching as a possible cause of death even though the Supreme Court of Appeal later noted that the medical evidence unequivocally rejected the alleged punching as a cause of death.

Hurley was investigated for causing the death. The Director of Public Prosecutions and the Criminal Misconduct Commission both investigated and found that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. The Director of Public Prosecutions stated publicly that the death was a tragic accident. Shortly after these decisions, an Australian national newspaper compared the situation to the death of African aboriginal Steve Biko in Pretoria prison, South Africa in 1977. Police claimed Biko died of a hunger strike in spite of massive head injuries suggesting otherwise. The journalist who authored the story, Tony Koch, won the Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year award for relevant reports in The Australian newspaper and in particular the resulting effective contribution he made to the public outcry. In providing the award the judges commended his reporting as "courageous, relentless and effective". Apparently the media response was effective in catalysing a prosecution. The Beattie State Government used a unique prosecution method to launch a trial. A former head of the Director of Public Prosecutions commented that it put Beattie "under a cloud". Likewise the state Police Union later released advertisements against the Beattie Queensland government, comparing the government to Robert Mugabe and his government. More specifically the ad stated: "Zimbabwe is a good example of what could happen where politicians override the laws to suit themselves." This referred to the claim by the Union that governmental initiation of a review of the DPP decision amounted to political interference in the justice system.

Although Hurley was found not guilty in the resulting trial the media portrayed the trial as a miscarriage of justice.

Read more about this topic:  Trial By Media, History, 21st Century

Other articles related to "hurley, chris hurley":

2004 Palm Island Death In Custody - Police Union and Aboriginal Activists
... Yanner said that Hurley was no racist, that he was loved by the Indigenous communities he had previously worked in, and that he identified with Hurley in ... particularly the police's role in justice for Indigenous people, saying that Chris Hurley was an exception to these problems, but that he had probably gone ... Chris Hurley received a confidential payout of A$100,000 from the Queensland Government in February 2005 ...
2004 Palm Island Death In Custody - Investigation - District Court Appeal
... In September 2008 Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley's lawyers appealed Coroner Christine Clements findings (September 2006) that he had killed Mulrunji ...

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