WARNING: Disturbing, traumatic content and references to Indigenous people who have died.
Tamica Mullaley, whose son Charlie was assaulted and murdered by her ex-partner, has had her call for an inquest into her child’s death rejected by a WA judge.
The case of Charlie Mullaley is heart-breaking and one of the most devastating cases the National Justice Project has ever worked on. In March 2013, 10-month-old Charlie was tortured and killed by his mother’s partner, Mervyn Bell. This was after Bell had left Tamica Mullaley naked and bleeding on the street in Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. This harrowing story is even harder to bear when we consider the police failings at the scene of the crime and in the hours afterwards. Police were called to assist Tamica Mullaley, but instead of helping and comforting her, they agitated a vulnerable victim of abuse, which ended up in Tamica being arrested for assault. Charlie’s grandfather, Ted Mullaley, who arrived to assist his beaten daughter, asked officers to take the baby into their care, but the child was instead passed to women at the scene. Bell then abducted him from their house, and despite Ted Mullaley’s efforts and demands that police search for Charlie all during the night, it all happened too late.
The tragic case sparked an inquiry by the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) and the investigation found there had been “a delayed and ineffective response” by individual officers on the night of Charlie’s disappearance. However, the CCC inquiry totally missed a critical aspect of the case: police should have intervened to protect Charlie when they arrived at the scene of a crime.
The National Justice Project wholeheartedly supports the Mullaleys in their claim that police could have contributed to Charlie’s death by failing to take him into their care at the scene of the assault after they arrested and detained his mother. The police breached their duty of care and did not ensure Charlie’s safety at the scene of a domestic violence attack. Would a non-Indigenous child and a non-Indigenous victim of an extremely violent gender-based attack be treated with such disregard by police? We don’t believe so.
Despite all of these failings and clear discrimination, Justice Rene Le Miere has ruled against the family’s quest for a coroner’s inquest and further investigation into the police’s mishandling of this case. Justice Le Miere said he was “not satisfied that it is necessary or desirable in the interests of justice to order that [an] inquest be held”.
Justice Le Miere said an inquest would cause “inconvenience, hurt and pain” to some of those required to give evidence about the scene of the assault. But not having answers as to whether police contributed to her son’s death is far more painful for Tamica Mullaley and her family.
Tamica Mullaley believes the failings of police directly contributed to her son’s death. Ms Mullaley said: “This is another slap in the face for me and my family and it’s just heartbreaking.”
“The police left my baby at the scene without asking about his safety. The police refused to look for my baby when I told them he had been abducted,” she said.
“It is clear to me that little Black lives don’t matter in WA.”