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Death in Custody – Mr Ward

Extract from Hansard [ASSEMBLY – Tuesday, 16 June 2009]

Ms A.S. CARLES to the Minister for Corrective Services: I refer to the State Coroner’s Record of Investigation into Death on the death of Mr Ward, delivered on Friday, 12 June 2009. The coroner recommended, in recommendations 9 and 10, that the current fleet of prisoner transportation vehicles be replaced, and that the department ensure that no old or unsafe vehicles are in use.
(1) Can the minister assure the house that the current fleet of prisoner transportation vehicles, which the report has said are unsafe, is no longer being used to transport persons in custody?
(2) If no to (1), why not?
(3) If yes to (1), how will prisoners be transported until the current fleet is replaced?

Mr C.C. PORTER replied:
(1)-(3) I thank the member for her question. Perhaps my earlier answer at least went around the issues that the member has asked about. The member referred to coroner’s recommendations 9 and 10. As the member has pointed out, recommendation 9 is that the Department of Corrective Services replace the current fleet of prisoner transportation vehicles with vehicles that are both safe and humane, and recommendation 10 is that the Department of Corrective Services ensure that there is in place a replacement strategy and budget to ensure that in future vehicles are replaced on a regular basis and that there are no old or unsafe vehicles in use. As I have said, I have instructed that a response be given within 12 weeks to both those recommendations. The fact is that the entire vehicle fleet is in the process of being replaced. A management plan will be prepared in accordance with recommendation 10 to ensure that the fleet, once it is replaced, does not fall into the state of disrepair that it has done over a period of years. So, both those recommendations will be met. It is interesting that neither of those recommendations provides specific timing. The member’s question is not about a specific recommendation, if I can put it that way, but is about whether any vehicle similar to the vehicle in which Mr Ward tragically died is still in use. The unfortunate answer is that, as things stand presently, a couple of those vehicles are still in use. Those vehicles have been modified, as I noted in my response to the earlier question, to ensure that remote temperature monitoring controls are in place. The servicing schedule has also been changed to ensure that the air conditioning is always operative. Those vehicles are still in service. Outside of the recommendations of the coronial report, I have had a separate meeting with the Commissioner of Corrective Services to address this issue. There is the possibility of taking vehicles of the same type as the vehicle in which Mr Ward died out of the fleet earlier than would be done under the replacement schedule that is currently in place. This will involve looking at some new options, including the use of coaches and the like as interim transport. If we can take those vehicles – even given that they have been modified – out of the fleet for a range of reasons as quickly as possible and beyond the schedule that we have, I am very keen to do that. However, I want to be assured that prisoner and public safety can be accomplished at the same time. Yes, it is underway.

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