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Palm Island to learn class action result

AAP logoAAP 3/12/2016 By Rebekah Ison

More than 12 years after an Aboriginal death in custody sparked rioting and police raids on Palm Island, Lex Wotton still can't turn a blind eye to "racism"'.

Wotton, who was jailed for the riot that led to the local police station and home of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley being burnt to the ground, will on Monday learn the result of his groundbreaking racial discrimination case against the State of Queensland and its police service.

The class action, brought on behalf of the community, alleges police failures after Cameron (Mulrunji) Doomadgee's death on the local watch-house floor and that it wouldn't have happened in a community that wasn't predominantly Aboriginal.

It's been a long road for Mr Wotton, who served 20 months over the violence that broke out a week after Mulrunji's death and who also took his fight against a parole-long gag order all the way to the High Court.

"It is worth fighting for," he told AAP.

"We can't just turn a blind eye to what we see as institutional racism."

A trial heard balaclava-clad officers marched through the small community's streets and pointed large guns at children's heads during early-morning post-riot raids.

The court, which spent a week sitting in the Island's school, heard a woman was forced to urinate in a doorway because an officer wouldn't let her go to the toilet.

Mr Wotton was tasered, allegedly without warning, in front of his children.

"(I thought) what happened to Mulrunji is going to happen to my dad," Albert Wotton, who was 12 when he saw his father getting tasered, told the court.

One of the solicitors representing the community, Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz, says the case was the first "against the police alleging what we're alleging".

"We're pushing the envelope in terms of the way the police can be held accountable under these race discrimination laws," he said.

Lawyers for the state of Queensland have argued the riot situation was much more serious than has been made out by the community's laweyrs and that armed residents had the capacity to make good their threats against officers.

The rioting was sparked by a preliminary autopsy report which found Mulrunji, who had four broken ribs and a liver almost cleaved in two, had accidentally tripped going into the police station.

In a video played to the court, a shirtless Wotton takes the microphone in front of an agitated crowd.

"Things gunna burn," he says before later being filmed with a large plumber's wrench, which he used to smash the station windows.

Sgt Hurley was acquitted of Mulrunji's manslaughter in 2007.

He was on Friday convicted of assaulting a man he grabbed by the throat and pointed a Taser at during a roadside arrest on the Gold Coast in 2013.

Justice Debbie Mortimer will decide whether Queensland should pay compensation and damages to the community, which has also asked for an apology.

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