ACT jail death: Victim’s mum warned justice officials her son’s life was in danger

NOVEMBER 12 2016 – 11:00PM

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Kimberley Le Lievre

The grieving mother of Indigenous inmate Steven Freeman, who died in prison in May, says she intends to pursue the inadequate treatment of her son “to the fullest possible extent”.

Narelle King said she warned ACT justice officials her son’s life was in danger during a court hearing about a year before he died.

Narelle King is in grief over the death of her son Steven Freeman, who died in custody at the Alexander Maconochie ...
Narelle King is in grief over the death of her son Steven Freeman, who died in custody at the Alexander Maconochie Centre earlier this year. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Ms King was responding to the independent inquiry, released on Thursday, by former integrity commissioner Philip Moss. The inquiry found wide-ranging failures of the ACT’s justice system, involving corrections, police and health authorities.

A coronial inquest to determine how Mr Freeman died is set to begin in December.

“Once the inquest hearing ends, my grief and pain over my boy’s death will not,” Ms King said.

“No person, Aboriginal or otherwise, should be treated this way by the justice system.”

Ms King said she held grave fears for her son after the near-fatal bashing at the prison, which took place within hours of Mr Freeman’s arrival. He was on remand at the time on charges of disqualified and drink driving, and possessing an offensive weapon, but was lumped with sentenced prisoners.

Ms King recalled the “haunting image” of her son being brought into the courtroom after being in hospital, in a gown “loosely tied at the back showing his nudity except for his underpants”.

“It was so demeaning and I was so worried seeing the blank look on his face as we tried to convince the magistrate that his life was in danger,” she said.

A year later, he was found dead in his cell.

The independent inquiry exposed failures that Ms King said she had long suspected but had been kept in the dark about.

She highlighted the lack of CCTV footage of her son’s cell at the Alexander Maconochie Centre at the time of the bashing, and the shortcomings by ACT Policing in dealing with the investigation.

“My son was never the same after that bashing,” Ms King said.

“The inquiry has confirmed my suspicions that the monitoring of Steven after his head injury was not adequate. The report states that no one at the AMC even assessed Steven to see if he had impaired function.”

The report revealed Mr Freeman did not receive adequate follow-up medical checks after he returned to prison from hospital. He did not have his cognitive functioning assessed, despite fears he may have suffered a permanent brain injury.

Ms King said she was still coming to terms with the loss of her son, and this Christmas would be difficult for the family.

“To think that this Christmas I won’t be laying presents under the tree for my son, Steven, will make his loss seem more real,” she said.

 

Source : The Canberra Times

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