Anger, sadness over judge’s Doughty sentence

Protests broke out across Australia this week in the wake of the lesser sentencing of the man who ran over Aboriginal boy Elijah Doughty in Western Australia.

The man’s acquittal of manslaughter sparked outrage across the nation, and also peaceful vigils among members of the Aboriginal community in Elijah’s Goldfields home town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

The 56-year-old man, whose identity is suppressed, was instead sentenced to three years’ jail on a lesser charge of dangerous driving occasioning death.

He hit 14-year-old Elijah with his ute while chasing the teen, who had stolen his motorcycle on a bush track at Gribble Creek on August 29.

During a trial in the Supreme Court in Perth, the man testified he had hit Elijah when the motorbike veered in front of his vehicle.

A jury returned a guilty verdict on the lesser charge after more than six hours of deliberations.

At the NSW Supreme Court on Monday, hundreds of protesters scrawled messages of anger in red ochre on the glass facade of the NSW Supreme Court, according to Australian Associated Press.

At the Splendour in the Grass music festival in Byron Bay on Sunday, Aboriginal hip hop band A.B Original used a picture of Elijah during their performance of Paul Kelly’s Dumb Things.

Aboriginal film and documentary-maker Trisha Morton-Thomas said Elijah’s death made her angry.

“I’m based in Alice Springs but I had a nephew die in custody not so long ago; it seems to be getting hit all around the country,” she said.

She said there wasn’t much difference between Australia’s dark history in its treatment of Aboriginal people and what was happening today.

The Aboriginal Legal Service in WA said Elijah’s death would not be in vain.

WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin jailed the man who ran over the boy on Friday and disqualified him from driving for two years. He is eligible for parole and, with his sentence backdated to August, could be released by February.

When he first appeared in court in Kalgoorlie last August, a violent riot erupted on the streets of Kalgoorlie, with courthouse windows smashed, police injured and shops forced to close.

Wendy Caccetta

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