by ray jackson, president, indigenous social justice association.
Last Monday, 4th april 2011, after a three and a half hour Coronial
Inquest was held as to the reasons surrounding the hanging death of
Aboriginal transwoman, Veronica Baxter, also known as Paris to her many
friends. the NSW Deputy Coroner Mcmahon found that she had been arrested
on the 10th march 2009 for attempting to sell drugs to an undercover
police officer sting, she was refused bail (no one knows why bail was
refused), she then spent five days in the Sydney Police Cells under the
care of Corrective Services as she detoxed from heroin. What medication
was given to her during this time is not known as this information was
not sought during the Inquest. It is thought that she received no
medication for her involuntary withdrawal from heroin nor did she receive
her hormone medication during this five day period.
On the 16th March, having been sent to the Metropolitan Remand and
Reception Gaol at Silverwater, an all-male gaol, two days earlier, she
was then found at 6am to be hanging by a bed sheet that was tied to the
top bunk in her cell. It is stated by Corrective Services that she was
one-out in a two man cell.
From the time of her arrest to the time of her death it is not known, nor
was it canvassed by the Deputy Coroner or the Aboriginal Legal Service
Solicitor representing Mrs Drury, Paris' mother, if she had been given
her proper hormone medication as per the Transgender Policy of Corrective
The only witnesses called was the Police Investigative Officer, a
Corrective Services Investigative Officer and a gaol Programmes Manager
who had arranged for the Transgender Correctional Officer to talk to
Paris. All witnesses were vague in several important areas of their
individual responsibility areas. It is not yet known why the gaol
Transgender Officer was not called by the ALS as she was the officer with
hands-on responsibility for Paris and her welfare.
the Inquest was all over by 3.30pm but the Deputy Coroner held a 6.30pm
media call to invoke s75 of the Coroners Act, 2009, that disallowed any
information being made public thus suppressing or gagging any media
publicity or comment on the case by activists or others. By 7pm all
articles on various media sites relevant to Paris and her tragic and
unnecessary death had been removed. The Sydney Star Observer was printed
and distributed with the page one featuring the strange case of
surrounding the death of Paris .It was pulled but with the lifting of the
non-publication order all articles have now been reinstated. Paris' mother
died some 2 or 3 weeks ago so the two brothers, William and Geoffrey, who
informed the Deputy Coroner that they wished to allow media articles, etc.
to be made in an assistance that such a tragedy did not occur in the
Authority to act on behalf of her family has moved from the ALS to ISJA
due to the fact that the ALS were not in favour of lifting the Order
whilst ISJA were acceptable to take instructions from the family. No one
W we, as part of an activist action team, believe the Order to gag was
very wrong and it is definitely not in the Public Interest to allow the
gag to continue. nor is it in Paris's best interests nor that of her
Whilst speaking with her two brothers they expressed much shock in what
was being done, allegedly in their name. William Drury stated that he had
not been contacted by any person from the Coroner’s Office but he was rung
twice by the Aboriginal Legal Services Solicitor who, among other
matters, urged William to accept the continuation of the gag. He
disagreed strongly and stated that he wanted his sister's case to become
very public in his wish that such a tragedy not happen again. William
requested that he be given the full transcript of Paris's bail
application. He believes that she should have been given bail and taken
home She was known to the police who had her full details. It is not
known if this is possible to obtain.
Her brother Geoffrey is as equally appalled at what has been done to his
sister's case. He questioned me closely as to whether her hormone
medication had been raised in Court, i informed him that it had not. Had
the Transgender Officer been called, no she had not. Was the Deputy
Coroners full printed decision been made public and distributed, no it
had not. He was shocked to learn that everyone now had to wait for some
two months before it was transcribed.
He had asked the ALS Solicitor for a copy of the Evidentiary Brief but
was told that it was unlikely that he would be given the documents. I
informed Geoffrey that as he and William were now the family, due to the
death of their mother, they now had every right to be given the Brief and
also the full Court Transcript when it became available in some two
months time. This distressed Geoffrey and he made a comment of what were
they trying to hide?
i have been going to Coronial Inquests for over 20 years and never have i
attended an Inquest with so many anomalies. I have seen suppression
orders applied before during an Inquest but not at the end of an Inquest
after the Coroner has made his/her Decision known. Normally after the
Coroner has given the Decision, printed copies are then handed to the
legal teams and the media. Not so in this case. Wait some two months they
say. Families are normally given the Inquest Brief, Again, not so in this
20 years since the royal commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
Recommendations were handed down in an honest attempt to lessen the
numbers of Deaths in Custody. from 1980 to 2010, for ATSI peoples, we
have averaged 13 deaths per year for thirty years. Why? How come? We had
339 Recommendations to answer the problem but they needed to be properly
implemented. Criminally they were not. It seems that the legal Duty of
Care that is the responsibility of Governments and the Custodial Systems
matter naught. we have left the bad old days behind us, we are now in the
time of the worst days.
the White custodial and legal system is reverting once more to the
pre-1991 era where ATSI deaths were not even worthy of being counted let
alone a matter of any social concern. We must fight this gross injustice
for ALL Deaths in Custody. Non-ATSI Deaths in Custody average out at
nearly 70 per year for 30 years! Why does that not arouse at least some
mild interest? We are not talking about The Ghosts of the Civil Dead. The
people sent to gaol are alive when they get there but some 70 never walk
out. this is being done in your name and your taxes.
We love and care for our Brothers and Sisters who die in gaols or at the
hands of the police, why don't you?
Join us in our call for a full Senate Inquiry into the thousands of
Australians who have died in custody. Contact me for further details.
Join us also in our fight for Justice for Paris aka Veronica Baxter as we
call for a new investigation into her death and an open and honest new
Inquest so Justice may finally prevail for her and her Family.
Join us at 12 noon outside the Coroners Court 35-43 Parramatta Rd. Glebe
on Friday 15th April 2011. The 20th Anniversary of the Royal Commission
Recommendations. Don't allow Justice to be Just Us!
Contact Ray Jackson for further information or comment. (m) 0450 651 063,
(h) 02 9318 0947. (e) firstname.lastname@example.org