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Officers who left intoxicated man alone in watch house for an hour before he died will not be charged

Dechlan Brennan -

Officers will not face charges despite leaving an intoxicated man alone in his cell in a remote Queensland watch house, where he died.

52-year-old Mr George died in his cell in November 2022 in Kowanyama, Queensland, having been left unchecked for more than an hour.

On Friday, the ABC reported charges will not be laid against the officers in charge of the watch house on the evening Mr George died.

Queensland Police Service Ethical Standards Command officer Tara O'Donnell said whilst police had breached both policy and the police and the Queensland Police Service Operational Procedures Manual (OPM), there was not enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges.

Mr George was known for his strong contribution to the community, with his cousin Darby previously telling National Indigenous Times he had "left behind a son, a cousin and a granddaughter".

The inquest before State Coroner Terry Ryan has heard Mr George was classified as a category 1 prisoner, requiring only hourly checks, but that the OPM required intoxicated prisoners to be monitored in person more regularly.

The ABC reported Brisbane city watch house manager Inspector Lynne Asher said Mr George should have been classified as level 4, requiring "constant and direct supervision," but the OPM definition of "heavily intoxicated" was not always clear.

Detective Sergeant O'Donnell said she would have placed Mr George in Category 2, requiring more regular checks, but also stated the OPM wasn't definitive.

The officer's day room at Kowanyama Police Station, a gulf community 450 km north-west of Cairns, is about thirty metres from the watch house where Mr George was housed.

The holding cell is a temporary 2005 demountable, which the police service had decided against replacing, according to Queensland Police Ethical Standards Command Inspector Marcus Cryer. He said the demountable was only cooled by a portable fan aimed at the mesh, often were covered in bugs, and could be considered a human rights breach.

The inquest has previously heard recorded security camera footage showed Mr George self-harming a short time after he was placed in the holding cell. It showed he was left unchecked for more than an hour, and when he was finally seen to, was unresponsive.

The court has heard some of the cameras at the facility did not always work and the design of the station made it difficult to monitor more than a couple of prisoners at any one time.

It also heard two-way intercoms between officers and cells were often failing.

The inquest will continue at a future date yet to be decided.

13YARN 13 92 76

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