MEDIA RELEASE 20 September 2021

Raymond Noel Lindsay Thomas (referred to as “Raymond Noel” for cultural reasons) was a proud Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Wiradjuri man.

Raymond Noel died in a police pursuit on 25 June 2017. Four years on, Raymond Noels’ family and community still feel tremendous grief and pain from his tragic and preventable death.

It is vital that changes are made to prevent such tragedies ever happening again.

The Coroner made a clear finding that Raymond Noel had done nothing wrong when he attracted police attention.

The Coroner also made findings including:

  • The pursuit of Raymond Noel was not justified.
  • “An alarming lack of internal rigour” by the Police review of the death of Raymond Noel.
  • The Victoria Police pursuits policy should enshrine the primacy of life and public safety must come first.
  • Police vehicles should not travel at high speeds without using their lights and sirens. Such actions are likely to induce fear in the driver being followed, and are unsafe.
  • Risk assessment for pursuits needs to be made prior to police involvement.
  • More extensive driver training should be implemented, including simulation training.

The Coroner also found that the police treatment of Raymond Noel through his life and the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through many generations, will likely have contributed to how Raymond Noel responded to the police pursuit.

The Coroner said that neither police member considered the damp road, major traffic lights ahead, the possibility that the driveability of the car was compromised, possibility that the driver was injured, whether serious risk existed before police involvement, nor how a high speed pursuit would protect the public, or how such a pursuit would likely end.

VALS is proud to support the Thomas-Williams family in their quest for justice. The Coronial Inquest is an important step towards finding out the truth of what happened on that night four years ago when Raymond Noel drove to the shops to get chocolate.

Police pursuits, like all policing tactics, disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Police pursuits should make communities safer, not less safe. This matter highlights the devastating impact that a police pursuit, initiated as a result of a minor traffic matter, can have for an individual, his family and his community. VALS also notes that Victoria Police has been scrutinised and criticised for its approach to pursuits in previous coronial inquests and investigations.

Quotes Attributable to Aunty Debbie and Uncle Ray, Raymond Noel’s parents

“We came to this inquest without Raymond Noel and we leave it without him.”

“While we have learnt more about what happened to Ray that night, we will continue our fight for accountability.”

“Ray did nothing wrong. The police should not have followed Ray that night and their decision to follow him led to his death.”

“We are very thankful for the way Coroner Olle has conducted the inquest.”

Quotes Attributable to George Selvanera, Acting CEO of VALS

“The Coroner made strong findings about Victoria Police policies, training, procedures, and internal reviews. Victoria Police must take the Coroner’s recommendations seriously, and begin implementation of these recommendations as a matter of urgency, before any more lives are lost.”

“VALS supports the Coroners suggestion that police should not have pursued Raymond Noel. And to the extent that they did, it should never have been in the manner in which it did.”

“It is clear that there are significant discrepancies between the written pursuit policy and the way in which it is interpreted and practiced by individual Victoria Police members.”

“The Inquest has also highlighted what happens when police investigate police. It’s taken over four years to get to this point. During that time, the family of Raymond Noel has had to live with their grief without a proper understanding of what happened to their son, their brother, their cousin.”

“We have been really proud to support Raymond Noel’s family. As the Coroner said many times, they have always maintained the utmost dignity during a very difficult and traumatic time.”