Ms Dhu 12b - What the Law Sees


The CCTV Footage: What the Law Sees

134. Sergeant Bond, Senior Constable Burgess and Senior Aboriginal Police Liaison Officer Edwards then walked over to Cell 3. Mr Bond then walked away in order to obtain gloves. The other two officers entered the Cell 3. As depicted on the Cell 3’s CCTV (that had no audio), at 12.11 pm Senior Constable Burgess approached Ms Dhu who was still lying on her back and with her right hand grabbed Ms Dhu’s right hand to pull her up into a sitting position. She then lost her grip of Ms Dhu who fell backwards, striking her head on the concrete floor.

Inquest into the death of Julieka Ivanna Dhu, WA State Coroner,  11 December 2016

Suvendrini Perera and Joseph Pugliese write of the visual and documentary material, including CCTV footage, that provides evidence of the repertoires of violence enacted on Ms Dhu as a racialised body in custody:


‘What does the law see? On a silent monitor, the impact of flesh and bone on concrete; the reflexive movement of recoil of a young woman’s broken frame as it is “grabbed,” then falls backwards. Is there a small twitch in the arm that grabs, then “loses grip”? No moans, cries or curses to be heard, but a slight turn of heads to the reverberation of skull on floor, a reverberation that seems to run through a current on the screen to a shudder in our own bodies?’

‘A historical repertoire of gestural violence is reproduced and captured by surveillance cameras that police officers and camp guards know is recording their actions as a form of visual testimony that might yet be used as admissible evidence in either a court or coronial inquiry; yet their actions are shadowed by this knowledge to no visible effect. The evidentiary apparatuses of the state are rather transmuted into passive witnesses that become, both during and after the fact, instrumentalities that enable, if not provoke, the ongoing reproduction, with impunity, of a lethal institutional repertoire of gestural violence.’ (Perera and Pugliese, ‘What the Law Saw’)




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