Officer faces civil law suit
by Peter Michael
From: The Courier-Mail
December 15, 200611:00PM
Mulrunji Source: The Courier-Mail
POLICE officer Chris Hurley faces a potential million-dollar civil law suit despite being
cleared of criminal charges over the death-in-custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji.
Furious family members and community leaders last night vowed to fight for justice and
called for calm on the island.
"We want to dig deeper," said Mulrunji's sister Claudelle Doomadgee.
"There is something about this whole thing that stinks."
Emotions are high after the state's top prosecutor, Leanne Clare, ruled there was no evidence
to prove Senior-Sergeant Christopher Hurley was criminally responsible for Mulrunji's death.
The Director of Public Prosecutions overturned a two-year coronial inquest finding that the
police officer struck the fatal blow that led to the death of Mulrunji in November 2004.
Ms Clare instead ruled the father-of-one, 36, died from a "complicated fall" in a "terrible
accident" inside the police station.
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Extra police are today on standby in Townsville amid fears of a repeat of rioting that led to
the Palm Island police station, barracks and jail house being burnt down a week after
Mulrunji's death two years ago.
Acting mayor Zacc Sam, who goes to the polls today in a mayoral by-election on the island,
said he had appealed for calm among his fellow islanders.
"We need to stand together on this," Mr Sam said.
"We are awaiting legal advice on if we can take civil action against Hurley and what other
options we have got."
Lawyers for the family and the Palm Island council are investigating the legal options of
pursuing civil action, including an independent review and suing Sen-Sgt Hurley for millions
in damages for wrongful death.
In the town square of the tropical island it was business as usual yesterday for the 3500
Aboriginal residents – and pay day for many.
Parents shopped for Christmas presents in the supermarket, elderly matrons bought clothes in
an open-air stall and dozens of children lined up for hot chips in the north Queensland
island's only fast food store.
But the shockwaves of Ms Clare's decision to clear Sen-Sgt Hurley continued to reverberate
through the tight-knit community.
Most expressed "sadness, anger and disbelief" over the ruling.
"This is a bewildering decision," said Brisbane-based lawyer Andrew Boe, representing the
Palm Island council.
"This man's liver did not split almost in half by itself. Mulrunji's crime, if there was one, was
to say a few words to which a police officer took offence."
He said he was investigating the possibility of an independent review through the Attorney-
The family expects a response from the lawyers as soon as Monday on the prospect of a civil