Pregnant Aboriginal woman's strip search and lock up 'appalling'

By Kelvin McDonald

The arrest, strip search and lock up of a pregnant Aboriginal alleged survivor of domestic violence has seen the young mother in tears and Western Australian authorities appalled.

Aboriginal mother Kearah Ronan, 26, was six-months pregnant when she was arrested and forced to spend 24 hours in police custody in Perth because she was too ill to appear as a witness in a court case against a former partner charged with assaulting her, The West Australian has reported.

The Yamatji woman, who has a four-year-old daughter, told The West Australian she was originally due to give evidence in January but let court officials know she was too sick to attend. She says she offered to provide a medical certificate but was advised that wouldn't be necessary and was told the next available court date was in October.

However, when she later discovered an arrest warrant had been issued against her, she's reported to have voluntarily visited the police station to check if there had been a mistake.

It's then that The West Australian says she was arrested, stripped naked and searched by two female police officers, who then locked her up overnight.

The arrest last month was brought to light by The West Australian last week and since then a storm has been brewing across the Tasman.

Ronan told the news outlet, “I literally cried from beginning to end. I had to undergo every process that a criminal... would have to go through."

Indigenous Australian broadcaster NITV says the WA Attorney-General John Quigley told media in Perth this week that he was "appalled" and "deeply upset".

“I called her in straight away and offered my profuse apology and invited her to go the Commissioner for Victims of Crime and work up an application for some modest compensation,” NITV reports Quigley told local media.

The West Australian says WA Police have defended the arrest and quote a police spokesperson as saying, "The investigating officer endeavoured to contact the witness to remind her to attend court, with a male person answering her phone and this male refused to assist police, intimating her non-attendance in court.”

Ronan is the cousin of Ms Dhu, a young aboriginal woman who died in WA police custody in 2014.