Marlon Noble has spent a third of his life in jail, for a crime the victims are unable to recall. What’s worse, Mr. Noble has never been tried. His plight is indicative of the manner in which the Western Australian government views those with mental health issues; some would say, its proof of a system designed to further marginalizes Indigenous Australians, a subtle form of genocide.
According to the Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board Annual Report, 2008, a total 25 accused were subject to review under the Mentally Impaired Accused Act (MIAA) 1996 (WA); of these 23 were men. Of the 25 people subject to review orders, 9 men and 7 women were in custody at the date the report was written. Of the nine men incarcerated under the provisions of the MIAA, 8 were indigenous.
Two years later in 2010, the statistics had risen substantially. Twenty-nine people were subject to review, with 19 of those in custody; 11 of the untried accused were indigenous men. In neither 2008 nor 2010 are any women identified as being Indigenous.
There has been much made by the media about Mr. Noble’s case in the past couple of months, but none of the media have investigated the glaring disproportionate representation of Indigenous versus non-Indigenous accused. Whilst the Act is clearly failing to care for both the accused and the presumptive victims, which is even further marginalizing Indigenous males. In Mr. Noble’s case, the ‘victims’, one of whom speaks periodically on the phone to her ‘aggressor’ has no recollection of an assault to either her or her younger sister, who is also implicated in the untried charges. The stigma of the charge is particularly nasty, as it involves sexual penetration of a child under 13 and another to the older sister, who was under 16 at the time of the alleged incident. Even if Mr. Noble is released, such a charge will most likely stain his record permanently, preventing him from interacting with or working near children.
Indigenous Australians account for approximately 2.5% of the population, yet in WA Indigenous Australians account for 38% of defenders who are declared mentally unfit to stand trial and a staggering 58% of those held in custody without trial. Does this seem fair and equitable? There is an interesting comparison between the MIAA stats and the stats from the Australian Institute of Criminology:
Indigenous people comprise less than 2.5 percent of the total Australian population, but account for over a quarter (28%) of young people in juvenile detention, one-third (33%) of people involved in police custody incidents and almost one-quarter (24%) of the total prison population. (White fellas greed has no bounds)
While the Australian Institute of Criminology stats are bad, the MIAA stats are absolutely appalling and point to a culture of genocide by stealth of Australia’s original inhabitants by the West Australian government.
The Greens Alison Xamon, says:
“Under our current system, people such as Mr Noble end up spending more time behind bars than if they had been convicted of the original offence.”
… Not only is this a matter of human rights and providing a better social outcome for vulnerable people, it would also probably be far cheaper than keeping them locked up in our expensive jails indefinitely.” (Noble reincarcerated after testing positive to drugs: Porter, WA Today)
Yes, Ms. Xamon, it would be cheaper and it is a human rights issue, all the more so when you consider the gross disproportion in the racial figures. More worrying is the fact that you can keep an Indigenous man incarcerated without charge for longer than he would have served had he been convicted by a jury, all justified by an Act of parliament that has no limitations to penalties.
The final injustice in all of this is the current discussion about Mr. Noble’s eventual release. Even the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes fails to get to the heart of the issues:
“The least restrictive option should be community-based supervision where he can access assistance to modify inappropriate behaviours. These alternatives must strike the correct balance between community safety and individuals’ rights,” Commissioner Innes said. (Aboriginal man with intellectual disability in WA prison for a decade is a disgrace, HREOC)
So, when he is finally released, Mr. Noble will still be answerable to a Criminal Board for an untested charge, allowed by an Act written during the Howard Era by a Labor government. The same Labor government that allowed those responsible for the attacks on Kevin Spratt and the death of Mr. Ward to get away with a slap on the wrist. That’s white fella justice for you!
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says:
“Where is the justice for Mr Noble who has been locked up for 10 years because we don’t have services to provide a safe community treatment option?”
Indeed Mr. Gooda, where is it? Who says the legal system doesn’t treat Indigenous Australians differently?
More importantly, where is the justice for a man who has spent ten years in custody without trial or worse, without a complainant? Is this racism? If it’s not, I don’t know what it is!