Indigenous Actor Ruben Yorkshire Jailed After ‘Random Name Check’ In WA

Ruben Yorkshire

There is mounting anger today at reports that Perth actor and Yirra Yaakin dancer Ruben Yorkshire was arrested during a day at the beach and is being held behind bars over approximately $1700 in unpaid fines.

Per NITV reports, the actor was with a female companion at Scarborough Beach on Wednesday of this week, when officers approached him and performed a ‘random name check’. It was then that they discovered fines dating back to 2013.

Under the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act 1994 (WA), a person who defaults on a payment arrangement may be detained at a rate of $250 per day until the money owing is “paid off.”

Relatives of Ruben Yorkshire have reacted angrily to the fact that he was approached by officers in the first place, saying that the ‘random name check’ on the beach was an example of racial profiling. His grandfather Uncle Warren told NITV:

“To me he’s been racially profiled on this whole issue. He’s having a good time down at Scarborough Beach with his girlfriend and what have you, and they spoke to him like he was a big time criminal. He works in town, he’s a good kid, he does plays all over the state. For him to be locked up for that, our family, we’re all sad about it. You lose confidence in yourself when something happens like that, you know?”

Yorkshire’s family are working to raise money to secure his release, but Uncle Warren has called for reform to the relevant laws, a call that has been backed by numerous peak legal bodies around Australia over the past several years.

In a 2016 briefing paper, the Law Society of Western Australia stated that the current law has a “discriminatory and disproportionate effect”, leading to the over-representation of aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the state’s prison system.

The paper, which you can read here, was written against the backdrop of the death of 22-year-old Ms Dhu. Dhu died in police custody in 2015, after her arrest for unpaid fines totalling $3,622. Police later said that they believed her to be “faking” her signs of distress.

In March of 2018, Australian Law Reform Commission‘s released the Pathways to Justice report, after an inquiry into indigenous incarceration rates.

The Commission found that statutory fine default regimes disproportionately target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and called for them to be reformed in ways that do not lead to incarceration.

WA police say that they are “[working] closely with the Department of Justice in respect to the appropriate custody arrangements” with regards to Ruben Yorkshire.