WA police officer charged with the murder of Joyce Clarke enters not guilty plea

The policeman charged with murder after he shot dead Aboriginal woman Joyce Clarke in Western Australia’s Mid West has entered a not guilty plea ahead of his trial later this year.

The first-class constable, whose identity has been suppressed over concerns for his family’s safety, fatally shot Ms Clarke on September 17 after police officers were called to reports of a woman acting erratically on a Geraldton street.

The case sparked racial tensions in the regional town and an internal WA Police investigation was launched which led to the officer's arrest months after the Yamatji woman’s death.

He was later granted bail on the condition he surrenders his passport, gives a personal undertaking of $100,000 and not contact any witnesses.

In the latest development of the case, an administrative committal hearing was held last Tuesday in Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court where a consent order was filed, indicating the officer was pleading not guilty.

He is next due to appear in the WA Supreme Court on August 17.

Ms Clarke, a mother-of-one, was fatally shot by the police officer after her sister called triple-0 asking for help when she began acting erratically.

The 29-year-old, who had mental health issues, had days earlier been released from Bandyup Women’s Prison after serving jail time for stealing a mobile phone from a house and then setting fire to her cell because she thought “spirits” were inside.

On the day she died a witness said he saw Ms Clarke walking down the street holding a knife in her hand when a police car began driving slowly alongside her, with officers talking to her out the window.

Three more police cars entered the street and eight officers got out of the vehicles. They told Ms Clarke to drop the knife before she allegedly lunged at the first-class constable who shot her once in the stomach. She died in hospital a short time later.

In the wake of her death, Ms Clarke's mother Anne Jones demanded answers as to why the police officer used lethal force, sparking the internal investigation that five months later led to the police officer’s arrest.

"They should have Tasered her ... she was under mental health, so why [shoot her], why did he do that?" she said.

Ms Jones in February said the whole Aboriginal community would watch the process with interest.

The WA Police Union is standing by the officer, with Police Commissioner Chris Dawson previously telling journalists there were about 80 witnesses and CCTV vision from a house.

In February, Mr Dawson said the “event” was rare and was “unusual in the history of West Australian policing”.

"The circumstances of what occurred in Geraldton are tragic and they have a long term impact on the lives of many people," he said.

"They include Ms Clarke's family, the Geraldton and wider community and police officers right across our vast state.”

The last time a WA police officer was charged over the death of an Aboriginal person was in 1983 when five officers were ultimately acquitted over the death of 16-year-old boy John Pat in Roebourne.

This article was first published on WA Today. Read the original article.

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