Please note, this story contains reference to someone who has died.
The police officers involved in the death of Yorta Yorta woman, Tanya Day, will have no criminal charges laid against them.
In December 2017, Tanya Day was arrested for public intoxication after falling asleep on a V/Line train from Echuca to Melbourne. Ms Day was taken to Castlemaine police station and detained in a police cell. Whilst in the cell, she fell and hit her head on the concrete wall and was left alone and unattended for three hours.
Ms Day died 17 days later, with the official cause of death being identified in the Victorian Coroner’s report on April 9, 2020 as a left cerebral haemorrhage.
It also noted that Victoria Police did not take proper care of Ms Day’s safety, security, health and welfare.
“Ms Day’s death was clearly preventable had she not been arrested and taken into custody,” the Coroner said.
Despite the Coroner’s findings, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has announced the two police officers involved in Ms Day’s death will not be prosecuted.
Upon hearing the decision, Ms Day’s family issued a statement through the Human Rights Law Centre.
“The DPP seem to have based their conclusion on a police investigation that we have said all along was flawed and lacked independence,” the family said.
“It is not good enough that such an important decision was made behind closed doors without any input from our family or the broader Aboriginal community.”
“It is in the public interest—and the interests of Aboriginal people across Australia—that the police be held accountable for their actions.”
The statement continued:
“We had hoped that in this global ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement that there might be some care and accountability for our mum’s needless death, but instead the DPP are choosing not to prosecute this injustice.
“This is wrong and speaks volumes about systemic racism and police impunity in this country. Aboriginal people will keep dying in custody until the legal system changes and police are held accountable.”
The family called upon the Andrews Government to acknowledge and act on police brutality and commit to independent investigations of deaths in custody.
“Our mum’s case shows why it’s wrong for police to be investigating the actions of their own colleagues,” the statement read.
Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, Monique Hurley, who represented the Day family in the coronial inquest said “the status quo of police investigating themselves and dodging accountability for Aboriginal people dying in their care must end”.
“For as long as Premier Andrews allows police to act with impunity, deaths in custody will continue,” she said.
“It should not be left to Aboriginal families, like the Day family, to continue fighting for justice and accountability.
“The Andrews Government must step up to the plate and address the institutional racism and lack of police accountability that lead to abuse, mistreatment and Aboriginal people dying in custody.”
As it stands, no police officer has been held criminally responsible for the death of an Aboriginal person in custody.
By Rachael Knowles