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Not guilty pleas in Mr Ward

prison van death

May 30, 2011 – 12:19PM

Two security-firm employees have pleaded not guilty to failing to prevent the heat-stroke death of an Aboriginal elder in the back of a prison van in the Goldfields.

Mr Ward, 46, who cannot be fully named for cultural reasons, died in the back of the un-air-conditioned van while being transferred from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in January 2008 to face a drink-driving charge.

The two van drivers, Nina Stokoe and Graham Powell, were charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act with failing to take reasonable care to avoid affecting the safety or health of a person in custody.

In the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court today, both pleaded not guilty and their cases were adjourned until August 29.

The maximum penalty if they are found guilty of the charges is a $20,000 fine.

The private security contractor G4S, which employed the pair, has previously pleaded guilty under the OHS Act to failing to ensure the health and safety of Mr Ward.

The company is waiting to be sentenced and faces a maximum penalty of $400,000.

WA’s Department of Corrective Services, which had control of the van, has also pleaded guilty of failing to ensure non-employees were not exposed to hazards and also faces a maximum $400,000 fine.

The department has taken steps to prevent a repeat of the incident, including flying people from remote regions to court and taking delivery of 40 improved prisoner transport vehicles.

An inquest completed in May 2009 by WA Coroner Alastair Hope concluded that all parties involved contributed to Mr Ward’s death.

But in June 2010, WA’s director of public prosecutions ruled out criminal charges, finding a prima facie case did not exist.

The following month, WorkSafe WA decided to investigate to determine whether the OHS Act had been breached and subsequently laid charges.

In July 2010, Mr Ward’s widow and her four children received $3.2 million in an ex-gratia payment from the state government.

G4S has not had its contract to provide a prisoner transport service renewed by the government.

AAP  

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