An Indigenous man suffering "significant" mental health issues and alcohol withdrawals was refused medical care in the Warrnambool police station cells on Thursday despite a magistrate's request.
A Melbourne-based nurse allegedly told a Warrnambool police custody officer that she was "under no obligation to listen to a magistrate" who requested the 31-year-old accused man be medically assessed.
The Warrnambool man was arrested on Wednesday, charged with criminal damage and unlawful assault, and lodged in the city's police station cells.
Police allege the man went to his new partner's home, they had a verbal argument, which led to him banging on doors, and he then smashed the windscreen of a vehicle with an unknown object.
On Thursday, Legal Aid lawyer Morgan Adams appeared in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court on behalf of the accused man.
Mr Adams told the court his client was an Indigenous man who had diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia, an intellectual disability and was in the cells suffering significant alcohol withdrawals and auditory hallucinations.
Magistrate Mark Stratmann remanded the accused man in custody for one night and requested he receive medical and psychological care.
But Warrnambool police custody officer Xavier O'Keefe later told the court that a Custodial Health Advice Line (CHAL) nurse based in Melbourne said she was "under no obligation to listen to a magistrate".
Mr O'Keefe said when a mental health issue was identified or disclosed, custody officers were directed to contact CHAL, with the usual practice being a custody nurse contacting a doctor from the Western Region Alcohol And Drug Centre.
But when Mr O'Keefe relayed the magistrate's request to the nurse, she said she would not send a doctor for a "one-night remand", he told the court.
He said his supervisor, Warrnambool police Sergeant Greg Cressall, then rang the same nurse and received the same response.
Mr Adams said he feared for the safety of his client, whose health was worsening.
"There have been concerns around deaths of Indigenous people in custody and the Royal Commission that followed on," he told the court.
"(The accused man) is currently experiencing auditory hallucinations, his health is worsening and this is just so not ideal."
Magistrate Stratmann said he was concerned about the accused man's welfare.
"We have an unwell, Aboriginal man in jail who has not been found guilty of any offence," he said.
"From what I'm told and accept, his health is such that he shouldn't be waiting for whenever someone else decides he gets (medically) assessed."
The magistrate asked for immediate support from a Victoria Police Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer and requested the custody nurse to appear in court immediately.
When court resumed after lunch, police prosecutor Sergeant Sandra Skilton told the magistrate she had spoken to CHILA's officer in charge Acting Inspector Lisa Carrison.
She said the Acting Inspector ensured a doctor would see the man "as soon as possible".
"And under normal circumstances (Acting Inspector Carrison said) that, that should have happened and (the nurse) is going to be counselled in relation to her response," Sergeant Skilton said.
The magistrate said he accepted the Acting Inspector's response to the incident.
"The only comment I will make from here is that I'm very conscious of the charter. We have a responsibility to anyone in police custody to ensure their safety and well-being, to ensure the humane treatment of any person in custody," he said.
South-west Indigenous leader Uncle Lenny Clarke said history showed Indigenous prisoners who were denied medical assistance had a higher rate of dying in custody.
"This unprofessional behaviour surprisingly comes when we have the world marching to prevent black deaths in custody, it should be remembered we have the highest imprisonment rate in the world," he said.
"This case highlights the downfalls that can easily happen when you get non-compliance with jail regulations and the Royal Commission into black deaths in custody.
"From what I understand of the matter the police and the court bent over backwards and have followed all the right protocols and have been let down by very unprofessional behaviour."
More than 400 Indigenous Australians have died in custody since 1991, a figure that's been a driving force behind recent Black Lives Matter protests in Australian cities.
Mr Clarke is an Indigenous Elder in the Koori Division of Warrnambool's magistrates, county and children's courts.
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