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Citizens protest in front of the Perth Central Law Courts where Coronor Alastair Hope delivers his findings

Elder Mr Ward: Coroner delivers damning findings

WA Coroner Alastair Hope delivers damning report on the death of Indigenous Elder Mr Ward

It seemed that Australia's flagship TV current affairs program Four Corners had covered it all.

Many people were relieved that the full story of the mismanagement of the WA State government, the Department of Corrective Services and the private contractor Global Solutions Limited around the death of Mr Ward had finally been aired in full on Australian mainstream television.

Reporter Liz Jackson had resourced the story thoroughly, and several of the reports linked off this page below had become part of the Four Corners episode, from 2001 and 2007 reports into prison transport inquiries by Professor Richard Harding to the work by Keith Hamburger AM, who wrote in response to the complaints by immigration detainees against GSL after their horrendous journey from Baxter to Maribyrnong.

What the ABC story of June 15, 2009 did not note is that the company as far back as 1993, under one of its previous names, Group 4 Falck, was already making headlines in the UK media about a custody death.

What's on this page:

This page brings together some resources, links, documentation and media items around the release by the WA Coroner of his Inquiry Report into Mr Ward's death on 12 June 2009. The page finishes with two 1993 UK media items around the custody death of Mr Ernest Hogg.

Quick links to the page items:

Related pages

Project SafeCom media release:

2 February 2008: Aboriginal Elder Mr Ward: another GSL Death in Custody - Last weekend's death in custody of an Indigenous offender while in transit by van, an AIMS Van operated under the contract with Global Solutions Limited from the Western Desert to Kalgoorlie was not by any means the first serious incident by this company, the company also charged by the Federal government for the running of Immigration Detention camps...

20 March 2009: The Inquest into Mr Ward's death - The damning indictments against Global Solutions Ltd, the company Australia uses to lock up refugees and detainees in immigration detention, the same company that has a contract for prisoner transportation in Western Australia, grew rapidly as the Inquest into Mr Ward's death progressed. This page brings together the media reportage about the inquest.



Four photos of protests in Perth around the death of Mr Ward. Click on the images to open the large versions.

Bail videolink may have saved elder

Nicolas Perpitch
The Australian
June 15, 2009

The family of an Aboriginal elder who died while being transported to prison wants a videoconference facility with magistrates extended urgently across remote Western Australia to avoid untrained justices of the peace refusing bail.

Coroner Alastair Hope noted in his findings on the death of the elder, named Ward, that if the bail act had been complied with, the man would not have been taken 360km from Laverton to Kalgoorlie and would not have died when he did.

Mr Hope said justice of the peace Barrye Thompson had not completed his training and had testified during the inquiry that he did not know he had to consider the question of bail at all when he remanded Ward in custody in January.

Ward, whose family does not want his first name used for cultural reasons, later died of heatstroke while being driven in the back of a van across the desert in furnace-like conditions.

His cousin Daisy Ward backed Mr Hope's recommendation that Attorney-General Christian Porter extend the use of video and telephone conferencing so bail decisions could be made by magistrates wherever possible.

"If there's someone in Laverton lock-up or somewhere else, and there's no good JPs, they should be able to go back to (their lands) for a video link-up," she said.

Ms Ward said that could prevent the tragedy of her cousin's death being repeated.

"If only the JP had been really qualified, given him bail and sent him home," she said.

Mr Porter did not say whether the role of justices of the peace would be reviewed.

Mr Hope also recommended that steps be taken to ensure JPs no longer practised untrained. Mr Porter said this had already happened. "The directive has come out in my department now that that will not occur: that the training must be completed before a JP is appointed," he said.

Mr Thompson could not be reached for comment.,25197,25636432-5013404,00.html

Prisoner transport company has 'changed procedures' since death

Posted Mon Jun 15, 2009 2:13pm AEST
Updated Mon Jun 15, 2009 2:23pm AEST

The private company which was criticised by the West Australian Coroner over the death of an Aboriginal elder says it has changed the way it operates prisoner transports.

Mr Ward died from heatstroke after being driven for almost four hours in the back of a G4S-owned van in the Goldfields in January last year.

The Western Australian Attorney General has said he is reviewing the way prisoners are transported as the contract is up in 2011.

But he says he has not ruled out the involvement of private companies.

G4S will not comment on whether it will seek to have its contract renewed when it comes up in 2011.

The company's Tim Hall says they are still assessing the Coroner's report but they altered procedures and practices after Mr Ward's death last year.

"This was a disastrous escort and it was tragic that this happened," he said.

"We don't back away from that but we believe that now we have in place all the measures that are necessary to minimise to the greatest extent possible, the risk of such an event ever happening again."

Mr Hall says escorts must now stop after two hours.

"In the passage of time since Mr Ward's death, many things have been changed; procedures have been changed, training has been strengthened," he said.

Four Corners will take a full look at this story on ABC 1 tonight at 8:30pm.

Suspended death van guard driver 'gagged'

Todd Cardy, court reporter
June 13, 2009 06:00pm

One of two guards suspended over the death of an Aboriginal elder in a prisoner transport van, says she has been "gagged" from talking about the tragedy.

On Friday, State Coroner Alastair Hope recommended Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Cock consider criminal charges over the "unnecessary and wholly avoidable death" of Mr Ward, 46, who died on January 27 last year.

Officers Nina Stokoe and Graham Powell drove the Warbuton elder, whose first name cannot be released for cultural reasons, for the 352km Outback journey between the Goldfields towns of Laverton to Kalgoorlie.

In his stinging finding, Mr Hope said Mr Ward died when temperatures rose to 50C in the pod of the commercially owned van which had no air-conditioning and little-to-no air flow.

Contracted transport company, G4S, formally known as Global Solutions Ltd, stood down Ms Stokoe and Mr Powell on Friday.

"The two employees have been suspended and the findings of the coroner, the coroner's report and recommendations will be considered carefully and it will then be decided what the next step should be," G4S spokesman Tim Hall told ABC radio yesterday.

Ms Stokoe declined to comment on her suspension, saying: "I can't talk about anything, I would like to, but I can't".

Mr Ward's family is planning to sue G4S, which runs other custodial services including court security, over the tragedy.

Prison Officer's Union secretary John Welch said the inquest had raised questions about the privatisation of custodial services in WA.

Mr Welch said he feared G4S would be allowed to be apply for the contract to run the recently announced Eastern Goldfields prison which was scheduled for completion by the end of 2013.

"You wonder why, in the light apparent failures of privatisation, you would want to even consider looking at having at private provider in the Goldfields," Mr Welch said.

A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Christian Porter said no decision had been made on whether the prison would be public or private, and any discussion on the potential awarding of a private contract was speculative.

Deaths in Custody Watch Committee chair Marc Newhouse said another public protest was planned for the city on Saturday to lobby the State Government for improvements.,21598,25632167-5017007,00.html

Family seeks millions compo for elder's death

The West Australian
By Joseph Catanzaro and Christiana Jones
15th June 2009, 6:00 WST

The family of an Aboriginal elder who died from heat stroke in the back of a prison van last year has called for "millions and millions" of dollars in compensation for their loss.

Mr Ward, 46, suffered a fatal heatstroke on January 27 last year while he was transported from Laverton to Kalgoorlie over a traffic offence.

An inquest into his death found the father of five had been trapped in 42C heat after the airconditioning for the van's metal pod failed.

Mr Ward's cousin Daisy Ward last night told Channel 7 News those responsible should be punished under Aboriginal tribal law but because this was legally impossible, the family would instead seek millions of dollars in compensation.

Miss Ward backed State Coroner Alastair Hope's recommendation on Friday that the Director of Public Prosecutions consider criminal charges over Mr Ward's death.

Mr Hope was scathing of the two guards who drove the prison van, the private contractor they worked for and the Department of Corrective Services.

The DPP is yet to review the Coroner's report but Attorney-General Christian Porter indicated on Friday that compensation would be "appropriate".

The prison officers' union said yesterday the State Government would show it had learnt nothing from the death of Mr Ward unless it ruled out further privatisation of the WA prison industry, including the running of two planned prisons.

Union secretary John Welch said it would fly in the face of the tragedy if the Government decided to privatise the 350-bed centre to replace Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison or the prison planned for Derby. Mr Welch said the shocking death of Mr Ward after G4S guards transported him in a faulty prison van through 360km of sweltering heat followed other disasters, such as the escape of nine prisoners from then privatised security at the Supreme Court in 2004.

Mr Porter said the union's rejection of all privatisation was too simplistic. Mr Porter said all options would be considered when G4S's contract was up for renewal in two years. The Government was getting legal advice on whether it could terminate the contract.

Coroner calls for criminal charges in prisoner death

The West Australian
By Christiana Jones, Amanda Banks and Staff Reporters
12th June 2009, 17:15 WST

State Coroner Alastair Hope will ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether criminal charges should be laid after investigating the death of an Aboriginal elder who died of heatstroke in the back of a prison van last year.

Delivering his findings this afternoon, Mr Hope was critical of the Government's maintenance of prison transport vehicles and the guards who transported Mr Ward, who died after the air-conditioning in the back of a transport van broke down while it was taking him from Laverton to Kalgoorlie.

Mr Hope said he would forward the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions, adding that the Department of Corrective Services, transport contractor GSL and the officers that transported Mr Ward had breached their care of duty.

Mr Ward had third-degree burns and hyperthermia after the surface temperature in the van hit 50C.

The inquest into his death revealed problems with the transport vehicles and procedural failures by employees of transport contractor GSL.

Mr Hope suggested that evidence from the two GSL officers transporting Mr Ward was unreliable at times, untruthful and even had "a sinister aspect", querying whether they had colluded to put a shirt on Mr Ward to conceal that he had experienced difficulties with the heat during the trip.

The inquest was told the two guards had not checked that the air-conditioning was working before putting Mr Ward into the metal pod and even a competent person would have known the importance of that.

Mr Hope said the van Mr Ward had died in was "not fit for humans" and the department had failed to ensure that GSL did not use "inhumane" and unroadworthy vehicles.

During the findings, Mr Hope spoke of chronic problems with the fleet, mentioning one vehicle had parts held together with duct tape.

He said the department had known the ageing fleet was becoming increasingly hazardous to use, yet did not restrict their use.

He said the vehicles were never meant to be used on long-distance trips in hot weather.

He said the tragedy highlighted the dangers of privatising services where the government owed a duty of care, saying that GSL had failed to ensure prisoner safety and had not reviewed its policies or procedures to make sure prisoners were treated appropriately.

Mr Hope said the tragedy had been a breach of Australia's international legal obligations to prevent cruel or inhumane treatment, describing the treatment of Mr Ward as degrading.

He recommended a raft of changes to legal processes and procedures regarding the maintenance and use of prison vehicles.

Responding to the findings, Attorney-General Christian Porter said Mr Ward's death was a miserable and tragically avoidable event.

Mr Porter said it was difficult to guarantee a similar event would never happen again, but significant improvements to the transport fleet, which would be completely replaced by the end of 2010, and procedural changes had been implemented in the wake of the death.

He said legal advice was being sought on provisions relating to the termination of the contract, but he expected that it would have been more appropriate to consider this option immediately after the death.

Kalgoorlie MP John Bowler urged the Government to invoke a $100,000 contractual penalty against GSL and to give the money to Mr Ward's family.

However Mr Porter said the penalty was "ridiculously low" and would be reviewed before the contract was put out to tender next year.

He was reluctant to consider giving the $100,000 to Mr Ward's family, saying he did not think it should limit the likely application they would make for an ex-gratia payment.

The Aboriginal Legal Services of WA urged Premier Colin Barnett to publicly commit to all the Coroner's recommendations following the investigation of the death of an Aboriginal elder who died of heatstroke in the back of a van in the Goldfields last year.

"Failure to prioritise the recommendations from the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody has led to the ongoing tragedy of people dying in custody and it has to end now," ALSWA CEO Dennis Eggington said.

The ALSWA said it had long-held concerns about the practice of transporting prisoners, saying the inquest pointed towards the need for an urgent review and dramatic changes in the way prisoners were transported, policing practices with regard to the granting of bail and a review of the role of justices of peace in court.

"Would this have happened if Mr Ward was not an Aboriginal man?" Mr Eggington asked.

"This is a wake-up call to Australia. The world has seen how you treat Aboriginal people."

Former Minister for Corrective Services Margaret Quirk claimed some responsibility for the death in an interview with television program Four Corners, to be aired on Monday night.

Ms Quirk said she had failed to convince her Cabinet colleagues to spend the money needed to replace the fleet of ageing transport vans, such asthe one in which Mr Ward had died.

"It's the biggest regret of my public life... I think we were negligent and I myself regard myself as personally responsible," Mr Quirk told Four Corners.

The Department of Corrective Services revealed yesterday that more than 60 faults with the State Government-owned prisoner transport vehicles had been reported in the 16 months since Mr Ward literally cooked inside one of the vans in searing summer temperatures.

The faults ranged from flat tyres to vehicle breakdowns but also include nine reports involving air-conditioning problems.

In a submission to then corrective services minister Margaret Quirk in November 2006, the Aboriginal Legal Service highlighted the "inhumane" and "completely unacceptable" treatment of prisoners during transport and specifically drew attention to vehicle breakdowns and air-conditioning failures.

A report by then Inspector of Custodial Services Richard Harding in May 2007, which followed a similar report in late 2001, also warned that the state of the vehicles and problems with air-conditioners meant breakdowns were "potentially a life threatening event."

Mr Eggington said the continued failures in the transport fleet, which will be replaced by the end of next year, were evidence of a broader problem and provided a compelling case for minimising the transfer of offenders around the State.

He supported the push to give the $100,000 penalty to Mr Ward's family.

Ms Quirk said she considered resigning in the days after Mr Ward's death and accepted responsibility for the incident, but believed systemic failures and complacency were to blame for the tragedy.

Death sparks call for prisoner transport changes

Posted Sat Jun 13, 2009 1:45pm AEST
Updated Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:53pm AEST

Prison officers want to take back responsibility for transporting prisoners following a damning coronial report into the death of an Aboriginal elder in Western Australia.

Mr Ward died after being driven for about four hours in 40 plus degree heat in the back of prison transport van without air-conditioning.

The WA Coroner Alistair Hope criticised the Department of Corrective Services, the private transport company G4S, and the two guards who transported Mr Ward 360 kilometres to Kalgoorlie.

Mr Hope questioned the reliability of the evidence given by the guards and suggested possible collusion.

A spokesman for their employer has confirmed the officers have been suspended.

No decision has been made on their future with the company.

John Welch from the WA Prison Officers Union says the transport of prisoners was privatised by a former Liberal government.

He says Mr Ward's death could have been avoided if prison officers transported prisoners instead of a private company.

"We wonder how many more disasters or tragedies will have to befall us with reference to the provision of prisoner transport services before the government steps in to say that this failed experiment of privatisation should be brought to an end," he said.

Mr Ward's family is considering suing the transport company.

His cousin Daisy Ward says the company offered to travel to Warburton to apologise.

"We all said that it was too late and that what happened they could have come forward to us and apologised to us earlier on.

Ms Ward wants to see charges laid over her cousin's death.

She also hopes the coroner's findings can lead to changes that will ensure nothing like this happens again.

Criminal inquiry call over prison van fatality

Debbie Guest
The Australian
June 13, 2009

The West Australian coroner wants the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate possible criminal charges over the death of an Aboriginal elder, slamming a government department, a security firm and two prison guards.

Alastair Hope found the death of Mr Ward - who cooked to death while being driven to prison across the outback in January last year - was contributed to by the Department of Corrective Services, security firm GSL and two guards who transported him.

Mr Hope said he would use a provision in the Coroner's Act to report to the DPP because he believed an indictable offence had been committed in the death of Mr Ward, whose family does not want his first name used for cultural reasons. But he did not want to create unrealistic expectations for the Ward family in their hope for justice.

Describing the conditions Mr Ward was placed in during the 360km journey as "inhumane" Mr Hope said the department had breached its duty of care.

He said by mid-2007 it was well aware of safety problems with the vans owned by the department used to transport prisoners across vast distances.

"A major factor in this death was the unsafe vehicles," Mr Hope said. "The Department of Corrective Services' failure to replace the van constituted to a failure to comply with its duty of care."

Mr Hope was also scathing of the actions of the two guards who he said had possibly colluded before giving "untruthful" evidence.

During the inquest, Graham Powell and Nina Stokoe admitted that they did not check whether the air-conditioning was working in the rear compartment in which Mr Ward was travelling because they assumed it was functioning.

"The air-conditioning wasn't something about which an assumption should be made," Mr Hope said.

"As a matter of commonsense it should have been abundantly clear that on a hot day ... it was of fundamental importance to check the air-conditioning was working." He said the guards should have made stops during the journey to check on Mr Ward, provide him with food and water and a toilet break.

Mr Powell and Ms Stokoe said the only stop they made during the trip from Laverton to Kalgoorlie was when they heard a thud in the back of the van just outside of Kalgoorlie.

Mr Hope also found that Mr Ward's death was a breach of Australia's international legal obligations and had breached the International Covenant in Civil and Political Rights. "I am satisfied that the deceased was subjected to degrading treatment and he was not treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person," he said. "There has been, therefore, a breach of the ICCPR."

Mr Hope made 14 recommendations to improve the justice system, including that the WA Attorney-General's Department review the use of justices of the peace, particularly in remote locations.

He also recommended that the inspector of custodial services issue the department with a show-cause notice when there were issues of human rights and safety of people in custody.,25197,25628618-5013404,00.html

60 faults logged since van death

The West Australian
By Amanda Banks
12th June 2009, 6:00 WST

More than 60 faults with prisoner transport vehicles have been reported in the 16 months since an Aboriginal elder died of heatstroke in the back of a van, the Department of Corrective Services has revealed.

The statistics, provided on the eve of State Coroner Alastair Hope delivering his findings into Mr Ward's death, show the faults range from flat tyres to vehicle breakdowns but also include nine reports involving airconditioning problems.

Mr Ward died after the airconditioning in the back of the transport van broke down during searing temperatures in the Goldfields.

Mr Hope will deliver his findings today after an inquest into the elder's death revealed a litany of problems with the State Government-owned transport vehicles and procedural failures by employees of transport contractor GSL.

Mr Ward was remanded in custody on Australia Day last year. While being transferred from Laverton to Kalgoorlie, he had third-degree burns and hyperthermia after the surface temperature in the van hit 50C.

The Department of Corrective Services is expected to be in the firing line over the death after repeated warnings about the ageing fleet of transport vehicles.

In a submission to then corrective services minister Margaret Quirk in November 2006, the Aboriginal Legal Service highlighted the "inhumane" and "completely unacceptable" treatment of prisoners during transport and specifically drew attention to vehicle breakdowns and airconditioning failures.

A report by then Inspector of Custodial Services Richard Harding in May 2007, which followed a similar report in late 2001, also warned that the state of the vehicles and problems with air-conditioners meant breakdowns were "potentially a life threatening event."

Kalgoorlie MP John Bowler is urging the Government to invoke a $100,000 contractual penalty against GSL and to give the money to Mr Ward's family.

ALS chief executive Dennis Eggington said the continued failures in the transport fleet, which will be replaced by the end of next year, were evidence of a broader problem and provided a compelling case for minimising the transfer of offenders around the State. He supported the push to give the $100,000 penalty to Mr Ward's family.

Ms Quirk said she considered resigning in the days after Mr Ward's death and accepted responsibility for the incident, but believed systemic failures and complacency were to blame for the tragedy.

The West Australian understands that Ms Quirk wanted the contract for GSL to be scrapped but she could not convince her Cabinet colleagues at the time.

Minister takes responsibility for WA prison van death

Debbie Guest
The Australian
June 12, 2009

The West Australian minister responsible for prisoner transport at the time an Aboriginal elder died in the back of a clapped-out prison van has admitted she was partly responsible for his death.

Margaret Quirk, who was corrective services minister when the man died in January last year, has told next Monday's Four Corners program his death was the biggest regret in her public life.

Mr Ward, whose family does not want his first name used for cultural reasons, died in the back of a non-airconditioned prison van while being transported across the West Australian outback in the middle of summer. Ms Quirk, who is now opposition police spokeswoman, told The Australian that as the minister at the time she was partly responsible for the tragedy.

"I have some level of responsibility in the sense that it was my job at the time. I had oversight of the fleet," she said yesterday.

"There's no level of liability ... but as a person with certain values and certain moral standards, I felt this was a failure. It's my deepest regret in my public life that this occurred."

The van Mr Ward was travelling in was one of 43 used for prisoner transport and owned by the state government at the time.

Ms Quirk said there was a process for the fleet to be upgraded but conceded that the time set for replacement was "probably a little long".

"This was an ongoing thing and there was money in the budget. This had been there for several years so really it's just a question as to whether it be accelerated or not," she said.

She said even when vehicles were earmarked for upgrades, replacement vans took eight months to be built and delivered.

State coroner Alastair Hope is today due to hand down his findings on Mr Ward's death.

A litany of problems relating to the justice system and private security firm G4S were exposed during the inquest on Mr Ward's death. The toughest step Mr Hope can take is to recommend that the Director of Public Prosecutions investigate bringing charges against the people involved in the death.,25197,25623580-5006789,00.html

Death in police van a disgrace, says Coroner

Sydney Morning Herald
Debra Jopson, Regional Reporter
June 13, 2009

It was a disgrace that anyone in the 21st century should be placed in the back of a prison van in 50-degree heat and hauled across the desert, the West Australian Coroner, Alistair Hope, said yesterday.

He said the state's prisons department, its private contractor and two guards had been directly involved in the death of a community leader who was transported 325 kilometres across the desert for four hours without air-conditioning.

He said WA's Director of Public Prosecutions should consider whether criminal charges should be laid over the death of "Ribs" Ward, whose family plans to pursue civil legal action against the prison transport company implicated in his death.

"Any reasonable person would be shocked by its appearance," Mr Hope said of the van pod, which released a blast of heat when doctors recovered the dying man.

It was inhumane to use the pod and Mr Ward should never have been transported in the first place, the Coroner said.

Given just a small water bottle and a pie, Mr Ward endured such intense heat that his stomach had third-degree burns from contact with metal surfaces after he lost consciousness.

Mr Ward's escort guards from Global Solutions, the company fined four years ago for mistreating asylum seekers, remained in their air-conditioned cab while he suffered, stopping the vehicle only when he was past saving.

Mr Ward was pronounced dead at 4.50pm, less than 24 hours after his arrest on January 26 last year for alleged drink-driving in Laverton, about 950 kilometres north-east of Perth. Yesterday crowds in the desert town of Warburton watched a video-link of Mr Hope's findings from Perth.

Mr Ward's tribal cousin, Bruce Smith, said no one, including the police, Corrective Services Department or GSL, had accepted a duty of care.

Mr Ward's family asked that his first name not be used.

Coroner's damning findings on elder's prison van death

By David Weber for PM
Posted Fri Jun 12, 2009 6:08pm AEST
Updated Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:57pm AEST

The West Australian Coroner has given his findings in the case of a man who was effectively cooked to death in the back of a prison van.

Last January an Aboriginal elder known as Mr Ward was being driven in the back of the van through the searing temperatures of The Goldfields.

The air-conditioning unit was not working and the temperature inside reached 50 degrees Celsius.

Before he died, the 46-year-old from Warburton suffered third-degree burns where his body touched the hot metal floor.

Coroner Alistair Hope handed down his long-awaited findings on Friday.

Mr Hope said Mr Ward died as a result of heat stroke which was caused by grossly excessive heat in the pod in the transit van taking him from Laverton to Kalgoorlie.

He said Mr Ward suffered a "terrible death" that was "wholly unnecessary and avoidable" and he died as a result of a "litany of errors".

He accused the people driving the prison van of collusion and giving false evidence.

He also said the fact the prison van did not have a spare tyre was an indication of the transport company's "reckless" approach to prisoner safety.

He said it was a disgrace that a prisoner in the 21st Century, particularly someone who was not convicted, was transported such a distance in such a compartment.

The Coroner expressed his disgust at the state of the compartment, saying it had all-metal surfaces, very little light, and no restraints to protect the person inside if the vehicle had come to grief in some way.

There was a lack of air flow and there was no proper method of communication between the pod and the drivers.

He said there was a panic button in the back but it was not prominent and only set off a light in the driver's compartment which could not be seen in daytime.

The fan did not work when it was tested, the air-conditioning was not working, and in any case the air-conditioning was not appropriate to be driving people such long distances in remote areas.

He said it was difficult to imagine a more uncomfortable environment.

West Australian Attorney General Christian Porter has called the incident tragic and avoidable.

Mr Porter says he expects Mr Ward's family will apply to him for a compensation payment but would not say how much would be offered.

He also has not ruled out a $100,000 contractual penalty against the prison transport company, GSL.

"The contractors have moved those two employees from Kalgoorlie to Perth, and they are no longer involved in prisoner transport," he said.

"Perhaps if that $100,000 penalty was applied, that might go to Mr Ward's family in the nature of a compensatory payment."

Arbitrary and inflexible

The Coroner said there were two pods on the vehicle; one directly behind the cabin, which was not so bad - there was cushioning on the seats and there was the possibility of opening windows.

But there was an "arbitrary and inflexible" rule that all prisoners should be considered high risk in the case when there is only one person being transported, and should be placed further away from the cabin.

In their evidence, the officers driving the van had said that they thought the air-conditioning was working.

No action was taken against the officers by their company GSL.

A GSL representative said they had not broken any of the procedures or rules.

The officers said they did not know why they did not check on Mr Ward during the four-hour journey.

When they heard what sounded like a fall, when Mr Ward hit the bottom of the pod, they realised that something was wrong.

The Coroner said that it appeared that Mr Ward died fairly early in the trip because he was given around 600mls of water to drink and there was still some water in the bottle when he was found unconscious in the back of the van.

Some GSL staff had been complaining for some time that the vehicles were not roadworthy for such long distances.

Dennis Eggington from the West Australian Aboriginal Legal Service says the Coroner conducted a thorough investigation into Mr Ward's death.

"His investigation and findings have proven that there's alot to be answered and people really need to be aware there are a couple of departments that have got blood on their hands at the moment," he said.

Former minister admits death van failure

June 16, 2009 03:55pm

A former West Australian Cabinet minister has accused her colleagues of being "a bit recalcitrant" in helping to fix problems with prison vans that led to the heat-stroke death of an Aboriginal elder.

Margaret Quirk, corrective services minister in the WA Labor Government that lost office last year, said she and other ministers were aware of the problems with the vans, but that "things moved at a glacial pace".

Mr Ward, 46, whose first name cannot be released for cultural reasons, was effectively cooked alive in a commercially owned prison van during a four-hour journey between the goldfields towns of Laverton and Kalgoorlie in January last year.

WA Coroner Alastair Hope, who said in his findings that Mr Ward's death was "wholly avoidable", will ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether charges should be laid over the incident.

Mr Hope found "inhumane treatment" led to the elder's death from heat stroke after he had endured temperatures in excess of 50C in the pod of the van.

He found the company involved, Global Solutions Ltd (GSL), its two guards Nina Stokoe and Graham Powell, and the Department of Corrective Services had all contributed to Mr Ward's "terrible death".

The department is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the fleet of vans.

Ms Quirk, who was not called to give evidence at the Kalgoorlie coronial hearing, said today she accepted some of the responsibility for Mr Ward's death.

"People do need to stick their hand up," she told Fairfax Radio Network.

"To the extent that I had a role in this I'm putting my hand up and saying that I feel responsible.

" ... I think if I had had my time over again I would have pushed harder to get that fleet replaced quicker, but hindsight's a wonderful thing."

She said Cabinet had been aware WA Custodial Services Inspector Richard Harding wrote to GSL in 2007 about the condition of the vans.

Prof Harding outlined 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".

He described the condition of the fleet as "parlous".

Ms Quirk said she could not disclose what had happened in Cabinet at the time, but said there were "a number of other issues that were happening in corrective services".

She said these included the government's responsibility for the maintenance of the vans and the level of service provided by GSL.

"That's no excuse. I'm just saying there were a number of issues that may have compounded the problem we had with the van," Ms Quirk said.

She said she had "gone pretty hard at the time" in attempting to improve or upgrade the fleet of prison vans.

"I was in regular discussions with the Aboriginal Legal Service who are very powerful advocates on behalf of their constituents and they were expressing their concerns to me," she said.

Given the chance to have the time over, "I would maybe have given them the opportunity to express those concerns to some of my colleagues who are a bit recalcitrant," she said.

"But I'm not pointing the finger at anyone else. It's my responsibility.",27574,25645324-29277,00.html

Guards sacked after prisoner's death in van

Debbie Guest
June 19, 2009
The Australian

The two security guards responsible for transporting an Aboriginal elder who died of heatstroke while being driven across the West Australian outback have been sacked, almost 18 months after his death.

Nina Stokoe and Graham Powell, of security company G4S, were sacked this week after Western Australia's Department of Corrective Services revoked their work permits.

In damning findings handed down by State Coroner Alastair Hope last Friday, the guards were found to have failed in their duty of care and to have possibly colluded before giving "untruthful" evidence at the inquest earlier this year. Mr Hope said there was a potentially sinister aspect in their evidence relating to whether or not Ward -- whose family does not want his first name used for cultural reasons -- removed his shirt before collapsing and dying of heatstroke in the back of the van.

The pair refused to comment.

Yesterday, G4S director of public affairs Tim Hall told The Australian that the guards had been dismissed on Monday night. He said they had been sacked because the department's move to revoke their licences meant they could no longer do the job they were employed to do.

On Monday, Commissioner of Corrective Services Ian Johnson revoked the high-level security work permits of the guards.

"My view is that revoking their permits is not about determining their guilt or otherwise, but stating that this department will not allow them to be involved with the management of offenders in our care," he said.

The guards had already been stood down on full pay on the day the Coroner's findings were released.

Mr Hope also found that the department and G4S had failed in their duty of care. He has prepared a report for the Director of Public Prosecutions for possible criminal charges to be laid.

Mr Hall said while the company accepted it had failed in its duty of care, it was the two officers who were responsible for Ward's death. "Our position is this tragedy was caused by two officers who disobeyed an instruction," he said.

Despite G4S having no official procedures relating to prisoner or air-conditioning checks, Mr Hall said the officers had been told by their supervisor to check the air-conditioning and to stop every two hours.',25197,25657800-5013404,00.html

Long ago, but not forgotten

Below are two media items relating to the 1993 death in custody in the UK of Mr Ernest Hogg. Both items are from The Independent.

No charges in Group 4 death

The Independent, UK
Heather Mills, Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday, 12 August 1993

No charges are to be brought against the six Group 4 guards suspended after a remand prisoner collapsed and later died while being escorted to jail.

The Crown Prosecution Service said yesterday that after studying a report by Humberside Police, there was 'insufficient evidence' for any prosecutions over the death last May of Ernest Hogg. Group 4 said the guards would remain suspended until the conclusion of three other inquiries into the death.

Mr Hogg, 38, was found unconscious in the escorts' van after a 50-mile drive from Rotherham magistrates' court to the Wolds remand prison, also run by Group 4. He died four days later from brain damage caused by inhaling vomit.

It was reported that Mr Hogg had drunk rum and vodka, sent by post to Wolds inmates in mineral water bottles. Although prison staff confiscated the bottles, they were sent to the court. If Mr Hogg and other prisoners were freed, the bottles were to be returned, but Mr Hogg apparently got hold of them.

Inquiries were launched by the police, the coroner, Group 4 and the Prison Service agency. The agency called in Alex Marnoch, a former Metropolitan Police commander, to investigate the escort service, which 'lost' eight prisoners in its first three weeks in service.

Yesterday Group 4 said: 'We welcome the CPS's decision, particularly on behalf of those employees suspended, as this will no doubt alleviate some of the strain they have been under.'

But Adam Sampson, deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust, said a prosecution 'would have been the best opportunity of clearing up the mysteries surrounding Mr Hogg's death'.

Group 4 to be sued after jail death verdict

The Independent, UK
Malcolm Pithers, Northern Correspondent
Wednesday, 16 February 1994

Group 4, the private security company, is to be sued over the death of a remand prisoner following an inquest jury's verdict yesterday.

The five men and four women found that a 'lack of care' had contributed to the death of Ernest Hogg, 38, who died after choking on his vomit in a Group 4 security bus. He had drunk over a litre of alcohol while waiting to appear in court and had then been driven across Yorkshire and Humberside.

The jury had been told that if Hogg had been given medical attention he had up to a 95 per cent chance of survival. Yesterday, after an inquest lasting 17 days, the jury found that he had died from brain damage caused by choking on vomit and, crucially, that there had been a 'lack of care' shown to him.

Under Coroner's Rules, juries can no longer name individuals or companies but are allowed to bring in the special lack of care verdict.

They had listened to more than 11 hours of summing up from the North Humberside coroner, Peter Gladwin, but took only 93 minutes to reach the verdict.

Afterwards, Mr Hogg's widow, Marlene, from Letham, in Angus, Scotland, who has two children, said she would start a civil action against Group 4 immediately.

Mr Hogg, who had run a heavy goods vehicle company in Scotland with her, was arrested last year on a drugs charge. On 4 May, he, with other prisoners from The Wolds on Humberside, staffed and run by Group 4, was driven some 50 miles to a court hearing in Rotherham.

The prisoners had been handed what security officers thought were bottles of water but they contained vodka smuggled into the prison. They went on a binge while waiting for their hearing. The men were put back on the bus and returned to The Wolds intoxicated. One prisoner was unable to stand and had to be laid out on chairs pushed together. But no one noticed that Mr Hogg remained in the van.

Mr Hogg was driven on to Hull Crown Court, then to Hull prison and eventually back to The Wolds where staff discovered him unconscious. He had choked a few minutes before arriving at the prison. Despite being revived and taken to hospital he died four days later.

A Home Office pathologist told the inquest in Beverley, North Humberside, that 'death was not inevitable' despite the large amount of alcohol consumed.

David Stockdale, appearing for Group 4, admitted that there had been a 'continuing failure' of its procedures by former employees. John Bates, a spokesman for Group 4, read a brief statement afterwards but refused to answer questions. He said that Mr Hogg's death was tragic and the company's sympathy lay with his family. 'Close attention has been paid to the training and procedures our staff work to. We remain confident that providing these rules are followed by custody officers, a tragic event such as this should not happen.'

Six staff were suspended after Mr Hogg's death. Three were dismissed last year.

A detailed report, prepared by a former Scotland Yard commander, was not put before the jury. At any civil action this might have to be produced.

Group 4 runs Britain's first private prison at The Wolds and has a five- year contract to escort prisoners to and from courts in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Humberside and North and South Yorkshire.

The Prison Service director general, Derek Lewis, acknowledged that Group 4 had some 'initial difficulties' when it took over the contract last April. Since then it had performed well, carrying out about 90,000 escort duties by 31 January.