The Custody Notification System saves Aboriginal lives. Why isn’t it national?


Police Shieldsource: The Guardian
published: 15 September 2016

When someone is arrested and detained they are at an elevated risk to life-threatening levels of anxiety. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are at much higher risk than the rest of the population because of the distrust that has developed from generations of racism and marginalisation.

Deaths of detainees in police custody led to a royal commission that went from 1987 to 1991. Several recommendations from that inquiry called for immediate support to detainees through skilled advocates.

Today, this support exists through the Custody Notification Service (CNS) but only in NSW and the ACT. The CNS is a 24-hour legal advice and helpline for Aboriginal and Torres Islanders who have been taken into police custody.

Under NSW legislation the police must contact the Aboriginal Legal Service whenever they detain an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. The detainee is subsequently provided with support, with early legal, health and welfare advice.

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