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Coroner's Findings and Media coverage of the death of Tracylee Brannigan

On 16 June 2014 the Coroner released his findings on last week's inquest into the death of inmate Tracylee Brannigan at Dillwynia Correctional Centre, in February 2013. The inquest attracted some misleading media coverage.

The Coroner found Ms Brannigan died from misadventure, from a heroin overdose. His only recommendation to the Commissioner of Corrective Services was:

That consideration should be given to the implementation of random searches of cells at, or shortly after, the afternoon lockdown with particular attention being given to cells occupied by inmates that are known, or reasonably suspected, to be users of illicit substances whilst in custody.

The full text of the Coroner's findings is available here. Among other things, he found that prisoners' advocate Kat Armstrong, a friend of Ms Brannigan who visited her the day before she died, claimed she was obviously affected by drugs. Brannigan's cellmate Lauren Ironside also claimed Ms Brannigan was under the influence of drugs at that time. The implication of these claims was that CSNSW staff failed to recognise this or ignored it. The Coroner rejected this evidence. He found that the officers responsible for Ms Brannigan's care had "acted appropriately".

The Coroner was critical of the ABC TV 7.30 Report segment shown the night before the inquest began. He said this had the effect of broadcasting to the public allegations that were substantially found not to be credible. This could have had a negative effect on the perception of the public as to the competency and commitment of the various corrective services officers involved in the care of inmates. This is a most unfortunate outcome.

For more information on media coverage of the inquest, please see the item below.