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Levitt Robinson have teamed up with human rights lawyer George Newhouse to take on the WA government over the tragic death of a young woman in custody.

Levitt Robinson’s Senior Partner, Stewart Levitt, spoke to the ABC’s 7:30 Report about the case:


LAUREN DAY: And a coronial inquest which found police acted inhumanely and that her life could have been saved if doctors at the Hedland Health Campus had properly diagnosed her.

Ms Dhu’s family now wants someone to take responsibility – and they have got an experienced legal team on their side.

STEWART LEVITT, LAWYER: It’s a very important case because this was an atrocity. And there’s too much tolerance in this country for this kind of repeated desecration of Indigenous families by people with the authority of the state. And we need to set standards which all Australians adhere to.

(Footage of meeting with lawyers and members of Ms Dhu’s family)

GEORGE NEWHOUSE, LAWYER: I’m expecting the brief to arrive…

LAUREN DAY: Human rights lawyer George Newhouse has joined forces with Stewart Levitt.

(Footage of Palm Island riots, 2004)

LAUREN DAY: Levitt has just won a Federal Court victory, claiming police racism during and after the 2004 Palm Island riots.

GEORGE NEWHOUSE: Stewart has been extremely successful with the Palm Island case in highlighting endemic and systemic racism in the Queensland Police Service. These are issues that need to be exposed in WA as well.

And I think taking Stewart’s approach and applying it to the circumstances of Ms Dhu’s case will expose the rotten core of prejudice that exists both in the police service and also, surprisingly, in the health service in Western Australia.

LAUREN DAY: Both the WA Police and Country Health Service declined 7.30’s request for an interview. Police said 11 officers had undergone disciplinary measures and a number of health staff had also received formal sanctions, although the Health Department wouldn’t say how many or what that meant.

In separate statements, both said investigations had been understood undertaken and policies and procedures changed in the wake of Ms Dhu’s death.

This week the team will lodge a claim of misconduct leading to death in the Supreme Court of Western Australia, as well as a racial discrimination complaint in the Australian Human Rights Commission, which could ultimately progress to the Federal Court.

(Footage of meeting with lawyers and members of Ms Dhu’s family)

DELLA ROE: I wake up and I’m crying and all this, you know. So I have been doing that all day.

VOICE OFFSCREEN: It’s been a bad day.

DELLA ROE: Yeah, it’s been a bad day for me.

STEWART LEVITT: I’m very confident that we’ll be successful. This is a case that’s at least as egregious as other cases where we have been successful.

(Police CCTV footage of Ms Dhu)

STEWART LEVITT: And there’s probably more evidence – more direct evidence – of what occurred than there is in almost every other case.

It’s certainly not without precedent that crimes against Indigenous Australians are under-investigated, under-prosecuted and the courts almost condone the perpetrators.