Kevin Spratt, an Aboriginal man from Western Australia, was tasered up to 41 times in a week and went to hospital with fractures, a collapsed lung and a dislocated shoulder after being taken out of his cell by a special ‘cell extraction’ team, a Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry has been told in Western Australia’s Capital, Perth, this week.
In one incident tasers are used on him 11 times, including nine when the weapon was activated in drive stun mode while held in the small of his back.
When describing his ordeal Mr Spratt said much had been made “by police and others” of his criminal history and the manner in which he had conducted himself around police:
“They are matters which I deeply regret,” he said. “However … those matters do not excuse what was done to me.”
Western Australian Shadow Attorney General John Quigley is reported as saying that the “sickening” video of Mr Spratt’s tasering would cast a further international pall on the way WA treated its Aboriginal prisoners.
“This man was likely suffering psychological trauma from the previous taserings he’d had that week,”
“There was no negotiation, they just said ‘Lay down or we’ll Taser you’ to a psychologically traumatised man.”
Tasers were not the only use of force inflicted on Mr Spratt in September 2008. He was also the subject of restraints by a number of officers, including during a cell extraction by the DCS on September 6, 2008.
The following day, Mr Spratt attended Royal Perth Hospital. Records indicate his ordeal left him with multiple injuries, including fractures of the ribs and humerus, a dislocated shoulder and collapsed lung.
When reading of the treatment served out to Mr Spratt by Western Australia’s finest, my mind turned to the source of the so called Anglo-Saxon liberties we are all supposed to enjoy in the Anglophone world today. Specifically how the ‘rule of law’ was designed to be deployed against over mighty rulers when they abuse their democratic mandate.
According to the ‘rule of law’ every person, great or small, rich or poor, is supposed to be treated the same, according to the law. We all know that this has never happened. It’s a grand idea, but perhaps beyond our current state of cultural development.
Prior to writing this post I spent some time perusing the Western Australian Crimes Act, but unsurprisingly I was unable to locate the section authorising police to Taser an unarmed man eleven times, nine of which while was restrained on the floor by other officers. It is unsurprising that I was unable to find the section I went looking for, because England developed a concept known as trial by jury. Trial by jury allows considerable freedom in evaluating evidence and allowed guilt to be established on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone – what Maitland described as the ‘rough verdict of the countryside’, making torture to extort confessions unnecessary. For this reason in England a regularized system of judicial torture never existed. Western Australian law, like the laws operating in the rest of Australia, trace their origins back to England and the English system of Common Law.
What would you call the Tasering of a restrained man nine times? Before responding it is worth remembering that Mr Spratt had already been Tasered twice while being restrained. Tasered twice, then Tasered another nine times after being restrained, I would call it torture. However the more squeamish among my readers may prefer less controversial terms such as payback, racism or just plain old ‘black bashing’. Whatever phrase you choose, in Tasering Mr Spratt nine times after restraining him, the Western Australian Police have operated outside the ‘rule of law’ and should be held accountable to the highest authority in Australia, its citizens.
If Australia is finally to come of age in the 21st Millennium we as a nation, must count every person who forms part of the body corporate of this nation as equal. This must of necessity extend to Indigenous Australians. Without this equality we are nought, failing to live up to the great Australian myth of a ‘fair go’.
The manner in which Mr Spratt conducted himself around police may have been wanting, but wanting for a very good reason. If the wider Australian community took a minute to consider the circumstances in which the average Indigenous Australian is forced to live on a daily basis, Mr Spratt’s conduct around police might seem, if not justified, at least understandable.
Following is a list of some of the abuses (the many forms of racism) Indigenous Australians have suffered at the hand of Australian authorities, recounted to me in response to my call for information regarding human rights violations committed against them. All victims presented below are Indigenous Australians.
- A Western Australian man left, with permanent brain damage after being bashed at Perth Train Station by Police, no one charged.
- A Western Australian man, after discovering his house had been burgled and the thief was still inside having injured himself on a broken window was charged over the incident because according to Western Australian Police “who would burgle a ‘noonga’s house”. This man later committed suicide over the incident.
- An ACT Aboriginal man, charged with possessing child pornography, felt that the way the DPP in the person of Mr. David Mortars presented the matter in court was designed to denigrate and racially vilify him, made more difficult by the fact that he was innocent of the allegation. Proved by the fact that Mr. Mortars dropped the charges shortly afterwards due a lack of evidence to support the DPP’s allegations. The man’s career was ruined; Mr. Mortars remained with the DPP.
- An Aboriginal man, during a meeting with Ernst & Young had to sit through a lunch where a then Director of Ernst & Young, spent the whole time denigrating Aborigines, single mothers on welfare and refugees. Sean Dooley of Ernst & Young among others was also at that lunch. There was no justice for the Indigenous Australian, so denigrated. The Director is now a partner with another large accounting firm.
- Mr. Neville Beal, cleaner at Walgett, spent his entire career cleaning the toilets. Thirty years cleaning toilets, while ‘white’ cleaners were rotated. Mr. Beal never made it out of the toilet block.
- Darren, bashed by Redfern Police because he could not produce ID he never had, lost his job, committed suicide. The police officers concerned promoted.
- Carolyn, a mother from Quirindi NSW lost her son to murder in Quirindi. The NSW police stopped their investigation after allegations were made that one of their own committed the murder. Justice remains to be done.
- A Doctor from Wagga Wagga, refused to treat an Aboriginal man, because he was Aboriginal. The list goes on and on and on.
Why would Mr Spratt have a negative attitude towards Australian authority? I wonder!