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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2006, 09:32 GMT
No charges over Aborigine death
Cameron Doomadgee - archive image (courtesy ABC News)
Cameron Doomadgee's death sparked angry protests
An Australian police officer accused by a coroner of causing the death of an Aboriginal man in custody will not face charges, a prosecutor has ruled.

Senior Sergeant Christopher Hurley was named by a coroner earlier this year as the man who fatally assaulted Cameron Doomadgee, 36, in custody in 2004.

But a prosecutor has now ruled there is not enough evidence to bring charges.

Officials called for calm in Palm Island, Queensland, where Doomadgee's death triggered riots.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie urged the island's indigenous community to accept the ruling, as indigenous groups spoke out in anger against it.

Mr Doomadgee, also known as Mulrunji, was found dead in a cell in the local police station after he was arrested for being drunk in public.

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He had suffered broken ribs and a ruptured liver and spleen.

At an inquest in September, Coroner Christine Clements said she found Snr Sgt Hurley "hit Mulrunji whilst he was on the floor a number of times, in a direct response to himself having been hit in the jaw and then falling to the floor."

She said police made no attempt to resuscitate Mr Doomadgee and accused the force of failing to investigate the death properly.

Her comments were criticised at the time by police trade union representatives, who insisted they were based on "unreliable evidence".

'Day of shame'

Following an investigation, Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare ruled there was no evidence to prove Sgt Hurley was responsible for the death.

Describing it as a "terrible accident", she said it was clear both men had fallen together at the police station, and the fall was the only explanation for his death.

Mr Doomadgee's family and the Palm Island community reacted angrily to the decision.

An indigenous leader said it sent a message that aboriginal people's lives "can be taken with no consequence".

"Today is a day of shame for all Australians," said Randal Ross, chief executive of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Legal Services.

Mr Doomadgee's death prompted serious disturbances on Palm Island - where an aboriginal settlement has been established since 1918. The police station and court were burnt to the ground.


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