Murdoch law students provide legal support for Coronial Inquest

August 29, 2016

Murdoch Law students are part of a dedicated team supporting Maxine Bennell with the Coronial Inquest into the death of her son, Jayden Bennell.

Anna Copeland, Director of Clinical Legal Programs at the Murdoch School of Law, is leading a team of Murdoch law students and alumni who are working closely with Maxine, her solicitors and Barrister Steven Castan.

“Jayden was a 20 year old who died at Casuarina prison in March 2013. His death underlies the sobering statistics that deaths in custody are on the rise,” Ms Copeland said.

“The Royal Commission held 25 years ago found that at each stage of the criminal justice system, Indigenous disadvantage arose from prejudice and lack of care.

The recommendations were designed to address these issues and improve the situation – instead the situation is worse. Our Murdoch students have seen first-hand the failures of the criminal justice system and whether it can learn from those failures.”

Maxine Bennell said that the support of Murdoch University’s law team had been invaluable.

“My father Eddie Bennell was involved in the establishment of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. We hoped that it would make things better, that our young men would be better protected from the trauma and pain of incarceration,” Ms Bennell.

“Three and a half years ago I lost my son, he died while he was in Casuarina maximum security prison. He was not the first death and tragically he has not been the last death in this prison. He should not have been there, he should not have done what he did that got him there, but he was not a violent criminal, he was a kid trying to find his way. I believe that if you break the law you have to face the consequences but the consequences, should not be death.

“Now my other sons will never have their older brother, to protect them and guide them, my family will never share a laugh with their cousin, nephew, grandson, and I have lost my son. I won’t see him grow into a man and become what I always knew he could be.

“They took him from me, they put him in an overcrowded prison, they cut him off from us, they made it impossible for us to support and care for him and then they failed to care for him, failed to protect him. To them he was just another prisoner in a system that has so many. But to me he was my beautiful, talented and vulnerable son.

“We have waited patiently for three and a half years to find out how this happened. This delay has once again said to us that this system does not care about my son. But I care, I have lost part of my heart, part of my soul and the pain will never go away.”

Murdoch Law students have aided Ms Bennell’s legal team by conducting research to support the case.

The inquest begins Monday 29 August.

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