Police are being forced to station country lock-ups singularly, putting themselves and the prisoners at risk. A prisoner has the right to be provided with adequate food, water, medical services, exercise and items of personal hygiene, which may place additional burdens on a sole police officer charged with the tasks of supervising prisoners. Not only can it affect the prisoner themselves but also the officer, particularly if they require urgent assistance.
Indigenous, young people, the aged and mentally ill people may require more supervision or care whilst in police custody. This could be exacerbated when there is no protocol to deal with intoxicated people and the observation of detainees is irregular and infrequent (Indigenous Deaths in Custody, 2013). Interestingly enough, there appears to be very literature on the rights of the police themselves, whilst carrying out their duty.
A large amount of people have died in custody, with 1997 having the highest statistic of 105 (Deaths in custody, 2008). In particularly in 2008, which saw a total of 86 die in custody, 32 of those were in police cells. This calls for alarm, police cannot be expected to do the job of two or more officers, particularly in country locations where medical and prisoner resources may be tight. Shortage of police in lock-ups is not only limited to country stations. Perth’s new police station lock-up facility has had to stop accepting offenders several times in recent weeks due to the lack of staff to supervise them (Hickey, 2013).
A detained person has the right to seek the services of a lawyer or legal representation (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2010: 55) although there appears to be no reason why prisoners in police detention should only have these services minutes before their court representation.
This appears to be an issue that is not isolated to country regions or particular Australian states. If this is not a problem that needs to be addressed, there will be another issue to take its place.
Commonwealth Secretariat. (2006). Commonwealth Manual on Human Rights Training.
Deaths in Custody. (2008). Australian Bureau of Statistics. 1301.2 Year Book Australia 2012.
Hickey, P. (2013). WA police lock-up staffing shortfall sees offenders released. Retrieved from the Perth Now website: http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/wa-police-lock-up-staffing-shortfall-sees-offenders-released/story-fnhocxo3-1226703400121
Indigenous Deaths in Custody. (2013). Retrieved from the Australian Human Rights Commission Website: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/indigenous-deaths-custody-chapter-8-custodial-conditions