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Palm Island inquest adjourned amid bias concerns

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 1 March 2005

Queensland coroner Michael Barnes has adjourned the coronial inquest into a death in custody on Palm Island until Thursday.

Mr Barnes has heard submissions that he may be subject to apprehended bias in the inquest into Mulrunji Doomadgee's death in a police watch-house on the north Queensland island.

The lawyer for the family of Mr Doomadgee, Peter Callaghan, said he had material that could show Mr Barnes had apprehended bias in the inquest because of his involvement in complaints against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley.

The complaints had been heard by the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) and the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC).

Senior Sergeant Hurley was the officer on Palm Island when Mr Doomadgee died.

Mr Barnes adjudicated in favour of Snr Sgt Hurley twice.

Mr Callaghan asked Mr Barnes whether he was aware of newspaper articles, which he submitted should be considered as possible contempt of the coronial inquest.

He went further to say that while Mr Barnes was not likely to be influenced by the content of those articles, if Mr Barnes did not act, it could lend support to counsel for Snr Sgt Hurley.

Mr Barnes has adjourned proceedings to allow lawyers for the Doomadgee family to inspect the files relating to the previous complaints.

Aboriginal activist Murrandoo Yanner abelieves the coroner should step down.

"It's shameful that he's left 'til this long in the proceedings, he should've declared that straight up, he should probably stand down," he said.

Mr Barnes will hear further submissions on Thursday before deciding whether he will step aside from the inquest.

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