Ryder sentencing needs urgent review: Manton

NT Government must demand appeal against light Ryder killer sentences

Statement by Bev Manton, Chairwoman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council

July 20, 2010

The Chairwoman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council has called on the Northern Territory government to appeal against the leniency of sentences handed down to five young white men involved in the bashing death of an Aboriginal man in Alice Springs last year.

"Any decent Australian watching the ABC's Four Corners program last night can't help but be appalled by the killing of Kwementyaye Ryder and the sentences handed down to the five young men who killed him - Anton Kloeden, Joshua Spears, Tim Hird, Glen Swain and Scott Doody," NSW Aboriginal Land Council Chairperson Bev Manton said today.

"In July last year, Mr Ryder had commenced work as a trainee ranger on his grandfather's country at Trephina Gorge, east of Alice Springs. He had settled into a relationship with his fiancé Jade, and they were planning to start a family.

"Mr Ryder was a gentle, happy and highly respected Aboriginal man. He had everything to live for, but his life was taken from him by the cruel and callous actions of these young Alice Springs men.

"Australians should not mistake the circumstances that surrounded this crime - a vicious assault took Mr Ryder's life, but it was racism, pure and simple, that led directly to it.

"For Aboriginal men and women, some of them very elderly, to be targeted by these young Alice Springs men while they slept in the dry bed of the Todd River should stun all Australians into action.

"It may be 'nothing unusual' for Alice Springs to drive up and down a river bed terrorising Aboriginal people, as one of the perpetrators family members indicated on ABC Four Corners last night, but for the rest of the nation, it is a shocking indication of just how overt racism is in Alice Springs.

"For their crimes, these young men will serve sentences ranging from four years to as little as 12 months. One of the killers will be released from jail in two weeks - Mr Ryder was killed less than a year ago.

"These sentences are clearly grossly inadequate. They cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. We must all express our outrage at the crime, and the sentences.

"Aboriginal people in NSW, and indeed across the country, are outraged by the killing of Mr Ryder.

"We stand with the Ryder family and share their grief at the loss of their son, fiancé, brother, nephew, cousin, uncle. And we share their outrage at a legal system which has clearly failed in its duty to deliver justice.

"We join the calls of the Ryder family for the leniency of the sentences to be overturned, and we demand the Northern Territory Attorney General immediately inquire into the circumstances leading up to the sentences handed down to these young men.

"Why did these young men face charges of murder, only to emerge from a criminal justice system pleading guilty to 'manslaughter by negligence'?

"The killing of Mr Ryder diminishes all Australians, and the failure of our justice system to adequately punish the offenders only makes matters worse.

"It should escape no-one's attention that on the very day Four Corner's was airing yet another outstanding expose on violence committed against our people, another Aboriginal man, Lex Wotton, was finally being released from prison for his part in the 2004 uprising on Palm Island following the brutal death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee.

"No white Australian has ever even been disciplined over that death. Yet dozens of Aboriginal people were jailed. At the same time, Mr Wotton's parole requires that he not speak to media for any reason whatsoever.

"Mr Wotton may be gagged, but the Aboriginal people of this nation will not be silent, not while justice continues to elude our families."

High quality images of Chairwoman Manton are available for download from the following link:

https://alc.org.au/newsroom/councillor's-images-for-media/high-resolution-images.aspx

Media contact: Chris Munro, 0438 760 242