Aboriginal woman jailed over unpaid fines after police call, 10 months on from Ms Dhu inquest

Aboriginal woman jailed over unpaid fines after police call, 10 months on from Ms Dhu inquest

Aboriginal woman jailed over unpaid fines after police call, 10 months on from Ms Dhu inquest

Updated 29 September 2017, 21:40 AEST

An Indigenous woman is locked up over unpaid fines relating to an unregistered dog after police in Perth are called for a family violence incident — 10 months after the Ms Dhu inquest recommended the practice be scrapped.

An Indigenous single mother has been locked up over unpaid fines from more than five years ago relating to an unregistered dog after police were called to her house for a family violence incident.

The case has echoes of the circumstances which led to the imprisonment of Ms Dhu — the 22-year-old Aboriginal woman whose death in custody sparked a damning report from the state coroner.

In his report 10 months ago, the coroner recommended the law be changed to scrap jail terms for the non-payment of fines.

It is understood the woman, 35, was arrested for fines totalling $3,900 after a background check was carried out when police were called to her Joondalup residence this week.

The mother of the woman — who wants to remain anonymous — said she had called police because her daughter wanted to speak to officers about "certain things".

"They took her to Joondalup police station … from there they transferred her to Melaleuca women's prison," she said.

The woman was sentenced to two weeks in jail but was worried for her young children, her mother said.

"She has got five children … she doesn't want to be made homeless," she said.

At the time of the arrest, there were 11 children in the woman's house including six of her sister's children — with the youngest still breastfeeding and the oldest aged 18.

Police defend actions of officers

In a statement, WA Police said they had ensured the woman and her family were treated reasonably and had "considered the welfare of all persons".

"In this particular matter, a review has been conducted and WA Police is satisfied that both the woman and her family were afforded all reasonable care," a spokesman said.

"The officers who handled this matter conducted themselves in accordance with policy and met the standards required when dealing with these difficult situations."

It is understood the First Nations Homeless Project is currently supporting the woman and her family, with more than $800 raised to help.

The family is closely related to Clinton Pryor, who walked from Perth to Canberra to raise awareness of the plights of Indigenous people.

We are making changes: Quigley

A 2016 report found Aboriginal women were the most likely of any group to be imprisoned for fines.

In a statement, WA's Attorney-General John Quigley said the State Government was working to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in jail, with the figures amongst the highest in the country.

"Western Australia's Indigenous incarceration rates are scandalous … the McGowan Labor Government does not shy away from this problem," he said.

Mr Quigley said the Government was working on introducing a custody notification system after it was one of the recommendations to come out of the Ms Dhu inquest.

He also said he would be introducing amendments to the law to ensure people were not imprisoned for unpaid fines.

"I have examined the approach taken in other jurisdictions in relation to jailing for fines and I will be in a position to bring forward a reform package to Cabinet before the end of the year," he said.

A statutory review of the sentencing act proposed alternative options for people found convicted of lower level offences, including the introduction of enhanced conditional release orders allowing for community work.