Trying to die with dignity

Mount Isa Magistrates’ Court
Mount Isa Magistrates’ Court

Police are today standing watch over an Indigenous man in Mt Isa Base Hospital with less than a year to live but 15 months to serve in prison.

Marshall Wallace’s family has made a public appeal for the terminally ill man to receive parole so he can die at home.

The appeal failed to sway at Mount Isa Magistrates’ Court on Friday which sentenced Mr Wallace, 48,  to the lengthy jail sentence on a series of driving offences.

Shane Duffy from the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Legal Service said the man was in Mt Isa hospital recovery with chemotherapy treatment.

“He is under police custody but we will make a parole submission that he be released,” he said. “We are asking for some compassion to be shown in this case.”

He said Mr Wallace had liver cancer and only six to nine months to live.

His lawyers and wife Maxine are appealing to the Queensland Government to release him on compassionate grounds.

Mr Duffy said the Wallaces are originally from a remote outstation in the Northern Territory, moved to Mount Isa in Queensland so he could access chemotherapy.

Ms Wallace told ABC Radio her husband failed to gain a driver's licence and had been convicted and imprisoned several times for motoring offences.

Ms Wallace said her husband was caught driving without a licence last week while they were on their way to inquire about public housing.

The court was told he had other outstanding driving offence warrants.

"I was in the car with him and I told him to leave the car. But he said 'I'm too weak to walk'," she said.

After her husband was arrested, she obtained a letter from doctors at the Mount Isa Base Hospital oncology unit to give to the court.

Mr Duffy said the sentence, with a five-month non-parole period, was within the range available to the court under Queensland law.

But he said Wallace's case was typical of many, in which sick Indigenous people are sent to prison for minor offences.

But on Saturday he developed a fever and had to be taken from the police watch house to Mount Isa Hospital.

Mr Duffy said it was believed Mr Wallace would be transferred and incarcerated in the prison ward of the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.