Ref: SBS News Online, 30/09/2015
The man jailed for inciting riots on Palm Island, after an Indigenous death in custody, has given evidence at a groundbreaking race discrimination trial. Lex Wotton has brought a class action on behalf of Palm Islanders, claiming alleged police failures.
Today has been a long time coming for Palm Islander Lex Wotton.
Eleven years after the riot on Palm Island that put him behind bars, today he was able to tell his version of events in the federal court.
“It’s an opportunity for the wider public to know what really happened and know what happened during the week of the death and during the time of the so called riot,” he told SBS.
The riot, sparked by the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee, led to the burning down of the police station and a police residence.
Among the allegations outlined by the class action, launched by Mr Wotton on behalf of Palm Islanders, is that post-riot police raids and arrests were excessive and would not have happened in a non-Indigenous Queensland community.
Mr Wotton was later convicted for inciting the riot, and sentenced to seven years in prison, of which he served 20 months.
He told the court today about the mounting community unrest after the death in custody and his attempts to express them to authorities.
He said there were multiple community meetings in the week after the death and that he passed on the frustrations of the islanders to Mulrunji’s arresting officer Christopher Hurley.
Mr Hurley allegedly replied “Is two years service not good enough for you people?”
Earlier in the day the court also heard explosive evidence given by a last minute witness.
Jucinta Barry told the court Detective Darren Robinson told her daughter not to ask police for help anymore if her partner raped or bashed her. This was in response to a complaint about the force used by the police during a raid on her home.
Ms Barry told SBS the comments were recorded, and when the detective realised he went “as white as a sheet”.
“He knows what he said was wrong to my daughter,” she said.
The trial continues in Townsville tomorrow, with Lex Wotton continuing to give evidence.
The article can be accessed here: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/09/29/palm-island-trial-lex-wotton-tried-tell-police-about-rising-anger