The death of a Yorta Yorta grandmother after being in police custody in Castlemaine has led a Victorian coroner to call for crime of public drunkenness to be scrapped.
Coroner Caitlin English intends recommending to the attorney-general that the law be changed.
“I am planning on making a recommendation as part of my recommendations and findings to abolish the crime of public drunkenness,” she told a hearing in Melbourne on Thursday.
Tanya Day, 55, was in police custody prior to her December 2017 death after being picked up for being intoxicated in regional Victoria.
The grandmother boarded a bus in Echuca before getting on a train in Bendigo headed to Melbourne to see her daughter on December 5.
CCTV footage shows her “slightly unsteady on her feet” at the station and, while on the train, she was unable to produce a valid ticket.
The inspector reported she became “unruly” and police were called to take a “drunk person from the train” when it stopped at Castlemaine.
Officers woke her, she walked off unaided and was co-operative, counsel assisting the coroner, Catherine Fitzgerald, said.
But police decided to take her into custody for four hours to “sober up”.
Her family was under the impression she would be left in the cell until she sobered up and police would put her back on the train to Melbourne.
Instead, Ms Day hit her head five times, even rolling off the bench in custody.
She also suffered a “dark-shaped oval bruise”.
“It is likely she suffered a traumatic head injury whilst in custody and it has ultimately resulted in the brain haemorrhage causing death,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
Evidence showed Ms Day was not checked every 30 minutes with a verbal response sought, as per police guidelines.
When police saw her about 8pm, emergency services were called and she was taken to Bendigo Hospital and later St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne. She was found to have alcohol in her system.
Ahead of the hearing, daughter Belinda Stevens called for the abolition of public drunkenness as a crime, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.
Victoria and Queensland are the only states not to have adopted the change.
“If we can change the system that continues to victimise Aboriginal people, then maybe her death will not be in vain,” Ms Stevens said.
Ms Day's family member Harrison Day also died after being in police custody for public drunkenness, with his case heard at the 1991 commission.
Ms Day's case is adjourned until March 19, with an inquest expected mid-July.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.