Legal centre makes recommendations

LODDON Campaspe Community Legal Centre has welcomed the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Stephen Niit. 

Acting Principal Solicitor Renee Wilson said the centre had argued the death of Mr Niit might have been prevented had Echuca Police been better resourced. 

“In particular, police members were treating Mr Niit with respect and compassion when they made the ill-fated decision to leave the cell door open on a hot summer evening," Ms Wilson said.

"Had the cells been equipped with adequate air conditioning this would not have been necessary and would not have availed Mr Niit of a hanging point."

Ms Wilson said police officers in regional stations were placed in a difficult position when assessing their duty of care to intoxicated persons and those suffering from mental health issues.

The centre recommended: practical and meaningful mental health first aid training be given to police officers working in regional Victoria; regional police have 24 hour phone or online access to forensic mental health nurses or doctors; Victoria Police develop building standards for all cells and holding areas to remedy potential hazards; there be an improved information exchange between regional police stations regarding custody management issues, especially in relation to critical incidents and near deaths in custody; police be given improved “vulnerable persons in custody” training; and all Victorian Police cells be audited to ensure prisoner safety. 

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