Interpreters and the Aboriginal Legal Service have called on the Western Australian government to reinstate funding for the state’s only Indigenous language interpreting service in the wake of the wrongful conviction of an Aboriginal man.
Gene Gibson, a Pintupi-speaking man from Kiwirrkurra on the edge of the Gibson Desert, spent five years in jail for the 2010 manslaughter of Josh Warneke in Broome before being released by the supreme court on Wednesday, after the court of appeal ruled his conviction had been a miscarriage of justice.
The court found that Gibson did not speak English sufficiently or have the cognitive ability to understand the legal process.
The conviction for manslaughter came after the initial police interviews had been thrown out of court because police had failed to provide an interpreter. The charge was then downgraded from murder to manslaughter and Gibson pleaded guilty. He argued on appeal that he did not understand that plea.
Dee Lightfoot, chief executive of Kimberley Interpreting Service (KIS), the only Aboriginal-language interpreting service operating in WA, said she hoped the ruling would spark the McGowan government to renew state funding for the service, which was cut in 2014