The death of a Yorta Yorta grandmother after being in police custody in Castlemaine has prompted a Victorian coroner to call for the abolition of public drunkenness as a crime.
Coroner Caitlin English said she intended to make a recommendation to the attorney-general that the law be changed.
“I am planning on making a recommendation as part of my recommendations and findings to abolish the crime of public drunkenness,” she told a Coroners Court hearing in Melbourne on Thursday.
Tanya Day, 55, had been in police custody prior to her December 2017 death after being picked up intoxicated in regional Victoria.
Ms Day boarded a train in Echuca headed to Melbourne, via Bendigo, to see her daughter on December 5.
An inquest in Melbourne was told that while on the train she was unable to produce her ticket. A witness recalled she became “unruly” when police were called to take a “drunk person from the train”.
Officers woke her, she walked off unaided and was co-operative, the inquest was told.
But police decided to take her into custody for four hours to “sober up” in Castlemaine.
While in custody Ms Day hit her head five times.
“She suffered a serious head injury whilst in custody and it has ultimately resulted in the brain haemorrhage,” counsel assisting the coroner Catherine Fitzgerald said.
It was noted that Ms Day was not checked every 30 minutes, nor was a verbal response sought as per police guidelines.
When finally checked later the same day, emergency services were called and she was taken to Bendigo Hospital and then St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne.
Medical staff found it appeared she had “suffered a large bleed to the head”, lawyer Fiona McLeod SC, for Ms Day's family, said.
Daughter Belinda Stevens spoke outside court ahead of the hearing, calling for the abolition of the crime of public drunkenness, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.
Queensland and Victoria are the only states not to have adopted the change.
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