The Western Judicial Services (WJS) has been criticised for its “disgusting” treatment of Indigenous people, who are routinely sentenced to long jail terms, and has been accused of “cultural genocide” and “institutional racism” in the past.
A number of Indigenous Australian cases have been brought before the courts, including the death of a 14-year-old Aboriginal girl, Tamiyo Wiri, who was allegedly killed by her father after he failed to attend a court hearing on a land claim.
The WA Government says the WJS has been “incredibly supportive” of Aboriginal people in the West and has “made progress” in “building trust and confidence” with the Aboriginal community.
But the WJC has also been criticised by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and other people for the treatment of many Aboriginal and Indigenous people in custody, including those found guilty of “serious offences”.
A recent report by the Law Reform Commission, released last week, said that the WJS was “one of the most racially and ethnically biased judicial institutions in Australia” and accused it of “racism, discrimination and violence”.
“It is also one of the worst in Western Australia,” the report said.
The commission’s report found that Indigenous people were routinely subject to the “torture, physical and psychological abuse” of “excessive force, ill-treatment and intimidation”.
It also highlighted that Indigenous women were “repeatedly” accused of rape and violence in the WJs custody and that the practice of “sitting and listening” to Aboriginal people “is not an acceptable practice”.
“There is also no support in the system for the needs of Indigenous Australians in custody or in custody settings,” the commission said.
The report also highlighted the use of “false charges” against Aboriginal people who have been charged with serious offences, including “rape”, “serious sexual assault”, “kidnapping”, “abduction”, “aggravated robbery”, “murder”, “assault”, “resisting arrest” and more. “
It has been found that a significant number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders are subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse in the custody of the WJA.”
The report also highlighted the use of “false charges” against Aboriginal people who have been charged with serious offences, including “rape”, “serious sexual assault”, “kidnapping”, “abduction”, “aggravated robbery”, “murder”, “assault”, “resisting arrest” and more.
The Commission said it was “unacceptable that the system does not recognise that the offences that are being investigated are the serious crimes”.
“This systemic failure of the system to protect Aboriginal people from serious and violent offences in custody places Aboriginal people at risk,” it said.
In 2015, the WA Government agreed to create a new Indigenous justice commissioner and set up a new independent body to “review and reform” the WJD.
But that body is yet to be established and the WA Attorney-General’s Office has repeatedly rejected calls for the creation of a new body.
“I am disappointed that the WA Liberal Party has chosen to put a rubber stamp on the appointment of a commissioner for Indigenous justice,” WA Premier Colin Barnett said in a statement.
“The WJS is the only Western judicial institution in Australia that has no independent body, has no system of internal review, no process for independent and open consultation and no mechanisms to hold the WJV to account.”
WA Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said in March that the commission’s findings were “completely unacceptable” and had “no place in the WA Police Force”.
“We need to do better, and we will,” Mr Stewart said.
WA Police Chief Graham Ashton also said in January that the Western Justice Commission report was “outdated” and that “it would be wrong to create any new commission to review the WJB”.
“I do not think we have a new commission in place, and I am not going to put that in writing,” he said.