A guard who was inside a prison van before a prisoner was pulled out unresponsive has refused to answer questions at an inquest into the man’s death.
A guard who was inside a prison van before a prisoner was pulled out unresponsive has refused to answer questions at an inquest into the man’s death.

Guard refuses to answer questions at inquest

Corrections officers inside a prison van with a man before he was pulled out unresponsive are refusing to answer questions because they do not want to cooperate with an inquest into the man's death, a court has heard.

Officers who transported Wayne Fella Morrison have been ordered to give evidence at a coronial inquest, but are allowed to claim privilege on a question-by-question basis to avoid self-incrimination.

On Friday, officer Trent Hall - the first of eight officers who were in the van and are set to give evidence - invoked privilege when asked a number of questions relating to what happened in the van.

"I decline to answer the question on the grounds that I genuinely believe the answer might tend to incriminate me of a criminal offence and/or make me liable to a civil penalty," he said.

His lawyer, Michael Abbott QC, also objected to several questions.

More than 15 questions were asked - but not answered - before the inquest progressed.

A guard has refused to answer questions at an inquest into the death of Wayne Fella Morrison, right, with his sister Latoya Rule Picture: Supplied
A guard has refused to answer questions at an inquest into the death of Wayne Fella Morrison, right, with his sister Latoya Rule Picture: Supplied

Mr Morrison, 29, died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital three days after he was restrained with handcuffs, ankle flexi-cuffs and a spit hood and placed face down in the rear of a prison van at Yatala Labour Prison in September 2016.

Claire O'Connor SC, counsel for Mr Morrison's family, argued the Deputy Coroner Jayne Basheer had not ruled there was a "real and appreciable" risk that the officer would incriminate himself.

She said officers have already given a version of what occurred in the van, and none of them have disclosed that criminal activity took place.

"Your Honour has to sit back and say 'am I satisfied that the answers to any questions in relation to the van itself pose a real and appreciable risk? Or is it simply an attempt by persons who came here not to want to cooperate with this process?" she said.

Ms O'Connor said repeated claims of legal privilege were "designed to stop these witnesses from telling (the coroner) what actually happened".

"The reason why the family want to know what actually happened is so that we can make recommendations to you to put in our report to ensure that other prisoners are safe," she said.

Mr Abbott disagreed his clients should have to answer the questions, telling the court the circumstances "speak for themselves".

The court has previously heard Mr Morrison, a Wiradjuri, Kokatha and Wirangu man, became violent in the holding cells and assaulted several prison officers while waiting to appear via video link to court.

He lost consciousness and when he emerged from the van, he was blue and unresponsive.

The inquest started in late 2018, and resumed again last week after a lengthy delay caused by a Supreme Court challenge and the COVID pandemic last year.

The inquest continues.

 

 

 

Originally published as Guard refuses to answer questions at inquest



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