"A Victorian coroner has called for swift reform of bail laws when handing down
his findings into the death of 37-year-old Aboriginal woman Veronica Nelson.
Nelson was suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition when she was
arrested on suspicion of shoplifting and alleged breach of bail in January
2020. She was later found dead in her cell at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre,
despite using the intercom system about 40 times to alert staff to her
Coroner Simon McGregor found “cruel” and “degrading” treatment of Nelson caused
her preventable death. Of the system, he said
A person in custody is not only deprived of their liberty [but also]
deprived of the ability and resources to care for themselves. In short, the
state’s control over the person is nearly complete.
[…] I find that the Bail Act has a discriminatory impact on First Nations
people, resulting in grossly disproportionate rates of [First Nations
people] remanded in custody, the most egregious of which affects alleged
offenders who are Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander women.
McGregor found the bail decision-maker in Victoria Police failed to consider
Nelson’s vulnerability, a provision afforded her under current bail legislation
and the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
In his report, McGregor also makes adverse findings against the custodial
healthcare provider, Correct Care Australasia (CCA). He found Nelson’s death
could have been prevented if CCA staff had provided adequate medical screening
and recommended hospitalisation. Instead, she was sent from the prison’s health
centre to a cell, where she died.
McGregor has referred CCA to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who may
consider charges for breaching relevant health and safety laws.
The Andrews government has not renewed its contracts with CCA.
Corrections Victoria (CV) doesn’t escape McGregor’s excoriation. The coroner
said the actions of CV employees and their inadequate processes led to a
failure to provide appropriate healthcare to Nelson."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics