Tuesday, 26 February 2008

WA prisoner transport changes: Death in custody

The death of an Aboriginal man in custody has sparked a number of changes to Western Australia's prisoner transport services after a review by the WA Department of Corrective Services.

Ian Ward, 46, of Warburton in the Goldfields, died during a Global Solutions Ltd (GSL) transfer from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in hot conditions on January 27.

It is unclear if the air conditioning in the van was off, or faulty.

Drivers of the van took Mr Ward, who had been picked up for drink driving on Australia Day, to Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital after they found him collapsed. He died a short time later.

The review was not an inquiry into Mr Ward's death but was necessary to give the community some assurance that prisoner transport was as safe and humane as possible, WA Corrective Services Minister Margaret Quirk said.

A number of measures, including breaks in journeys of more than two hours, physical checks and interaction with prisoners during journey breaks will be implemented by March 28.

"After a stringent review of operating procedures which have duty of care implications, I have directed that additional measures be implemented by March 28," Ms Quirk said.

The Department of Corrective Services will have to obtain advice from WA police to ensure everyone leaving custody is fit to travel by March 14.

All vehicles used to transport prisoners will undergo comprehensive roadworthiness tests and have remote temperature monitoring from offender compartments to the staff cab, as well as fail safe duress buttons fitted by May 31.

"I have also directed that all options for expediting the full replacement of the fleet be considered and progressed," Ms Quirk said.

WA Custodial Services Inspector Richard Harding wrote to GSL last year outlining six concerns including "GSL's capacity to cope with the logistical challenge of running a transport service across such huge distances as are involved with WA."

Mr Harding described the government-owned fleet which GSL would have to rely on as "parlous".

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