Mother wins damages in Aborginal death in custody case

Mrs Veronica Appleton was successful today in the District Court of NSW in her claim for damages arising from the death of her son in Cessnock Correctional Centre on 3 March 2000.

Mrs Appleton’s son, Trent Lantry, was a 19 year old aboriginal man. He committed suicide only hours after his release from the Acute Crisis Management Unit of Cessnock Correctional Centre. He had been released from the Unit into a cell on his own. The cell had a bed which was held up by milk crates and had obvious hanging points.

Mrs Appleton was informed of her son’s death and shown his body soon after his death, in the prison, outside the cell in which he hung himself.

Simon Moran, Mrs Appleton’s solicitor, said:

‘Indigenous deaths in custody are still a major concern. This is a significant decision as it highlights the need for ongoing and careful monitoring of inmates that are at risk of self harm.’

Judge Quirk stated in her decision:

‘The defendant breached its duty of care in not taking further precautions to prevent self harm by Trent after his discharge from the Acute Crisis Management Unit and in particular placing him in a cell with easy and immediate access to a hanging point by movable milk crates. By placing Trent in a cell with movable milk crates supporting his bed, the defendant provided him with the opportunity to kill himself. I also find that not monitoring him or assessing him in some fashion and placing him in a cell alone amounted to breaches of its duty.’

Mrs Appleton is represented by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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