National

Cop-out claim over Vic death in custody

By AAP Newswire

Victoria Police has urged a coroner to dismiss the "opinions" of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day's family, who want individual officers to be criminally investigated over her death in custody.

But Ms Day's family argue the force is trying to skirt its responsibility and remain optimistic coroner Caitlin English won't let them do so.

The 55-year-old grandmother fell and suffered a head injury while in a regional Victorian police cell after being arrested for drunkenness on a train on December 5, 2017. She died two weeks later.

In a final written submission to an inquest into the death, Ms Day's family argued it is "possible" police committed offences which coroner Caitlin English should refer to the Department of Public Prosecutions.

They also want the coroner to acknowledge systemic racism and unconscious bias were central to Ms Day's death, because public drunkenness laws were more likely to be applied to her as an Aboriginal woman.

The family further want the coroner to recommend police should not have the opportunity to investigate other police.

"There is no doubt in our mind that Victoria Police are responsible for our mum's death," Ms Day's daughter Belinda Day told reporters in Melbourne on Monday.

Lawyer for the chief commissioner of Victoria Police Graham Ashton, Rachel Ellyard, says the submission reflects the family's "feelings" and "deep distress" over the death.

She urged the coroner to act upon the evidence she heard during the inquest when making her assessment and not such "reflections".

"Your Honour ought not be influenced by what I'll call the opinions of interested parties," she told the court during final oral submissions.

Ms Ellyard said the inquest heard no evidence that police had broken the law by being negligent in how they treated Ms Day.

"The evidence isn't there. If it were, Your Honour would long since have made the referral."

She also dismissed the suggestion police involved in Ms Day's situation had been driven by racism.

"There was no inappropriate regard, consciously or unconsciously, to her (Ms Day's) Aboriginality," she said.

In its written submission, Victoria Police's chief commissioner's office said police had properly followed laws and guidelines or explained when they hadn't done so.

Lawyer for Ms Day's family Peter Morrissey said on the contrary, the inquest had shown police had fallen short by not noticing when Ms Day has fallen.

"They cannot have been adequately monitoring her," he told the court.

Ms Day's son Warren Day said Victoria Police's final submissions show the force wants to learn nothing from his mother's death.

"All we saw was an attempt to normalise the behaviour of police and an attempt to get out of all responsibility," he told reporters after the hearing.

"Without accountability, more Aboriginal people will die in custody."

The coroner is expecting to hand down her findings in March.