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Inquest set to begin into death in custody of 22 year-old Noongar man Ricky-Lee Cound

Giovanni Torre -

More than two years after his death in custody, an inquest will begin on Monday into the passing of Ricky-Lee Cound.


The Noongar man was only 22 years old when he died in Hakea Prison in Western Australia in March 2022.

Mr Cound had strong connections to his family and community and was known for his "big, bright, cheeky smile, skilled artistry and playful sense of humour"


Ricky-Lee had contact with the Western Australian correctional system from the young age of 11, and had dreams of becoming a youth worker to help young people get their lives on track.

In March 2022 he had been transferred to Hakea Prison and placed on a specific At-Risk Management System (ARMS) used for monitoring inmates at risk of self-harm and suicide.


Ricky-Lee Cound’s mother, Laura Cound, had begged prison authorities to arrange an Aboriginal Visitor Scheme participants to visit her son out of concern for his risk of self-harm.

Only hours before he died, prison officers and healthcare staff determined that Mr Cound was no longer considered as at risk of self harm or suicide.

Ricky-Lee had
asked to be placed in an observation cell but was not moved. A number of other inmates called officers, asking them to check on Mr Cound, but he died alone in his cell from a suspected suicide on 25 March, 2022.

Laura Cound with a photograph of her son Ricky-Lee Cound. Image: National Justice Project.



Ms Cound is now seeking justice and accountability.


“My son cried out for an observation cell on the day he died, but this fell on deaf ears," she said on Friday.

"The conditions our mob are put under within the criminal system—the lockdowns, confinement and lack of mental health care— it’s like putting petrol on fire. I want answers, I want justice for my son.”

It was revealed shortly after Ricky-Lee's death that
Western Australia's Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services had recommended the expansion of CCTV and body-worn cameras for guards at Hakea Prison multiple times before he passed.

Also, Aboriginal community leaders and family of inmates had also called for improved transparency and establishment of a wellbeing hotline at WA's Acacia Prison, where Mr Cound was held before Hakea, in February 2022.

The National Justice Project, who is working with Ricky-Lee's family, said he deserved culturally safe care and adequate mental health support.


Project chief executive George Newhouse said Mr Cound's passing was "yet another terrible death in the WA prison system".

"Ricky-Lee’s family have been through two years of distress and trauma and are urging the Coroner to properly examine not just the death but wider systemic issues. These include how we can provide culturally safe care and support inside prisons, how mental health treatment should be delivered and how we can reform the whole prison system. Otherwise more young men will continue to die and more families will suffer," he said.


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