Briscoe inquiry shows police to blame for death

A coronial inquiry into the death of Terrance Briscoe has revealed damning evidence of police brutality and gross negligence.

Terrance Briscoe was an Anmatyere man who died on January 5 in the Alice Springs watch house, after being taken into “protective custody” while drinking with friends.

For the first time, family and friends have seen the CCTV footage from the police watch house. It shows Terrance’s head being smashed on a counter while he is wrestled to the ground by police. Terrance bled profusely—but was never given any first aid.

He was then dragged into his cell and dumped face down on a mattress. Terrance struggled, but could never sit up. He was left in his cell like this for three hours while police ignored pleas by other prisoners to attend to him. He died in an extremely awkward position.

The initial autopsy claimed Terrance died from alcohol poisoning. But expert witnesses are saying the most likely cause of death was “positional asphyxia”, that is, being unable to breathe.

If it wasn’t for this treatment at the hands of the police, there is every reason to believe that Terrance would be alive today.

Stop the Intervention Collective (STICS), has resolved to take the fight for justice forward and demand charges of manslaughter be laid against the police.

Patricia Morton Thomas, Terrance’s aunty and spokesperson for the family, addressed a STICS meeting on May 28. She explained, “My nephew is dead today because of the NT Intervention. It has really brought the racism out into the open. Laws which dehumanise Aboriginal people give the police power and confidence to treat us like animals”.

The coronial has also heard evidence of systematic, and unlawful, harassment of Aboriginal people by police. Terrance’s friends were finger-printed and photographed, despite not being arrested for any crime. This was the 31st time Terrance had been taken into “protective custody”.

The coronial inquest will conclude on June 22.

Paddy Gibson


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