Actor Rubeun Yorkshire jailed over unpaid fines, supporters claim racism
Rubeun Yorkshire’s mother Cherie says her son has never been in trouble with police. (Facebook: Rubeun Yorkshire)
Indigenous actor and dancer Rubeun Yorkshire was on a family outing at a Perth beach last week when he was stopped by police and jailed for unpaid fines — an incident his supporters say was racially motivated.
- Mr Yorkshire spent five days behind bars over outstanding fines
- His family claims he thought the fines were paid and has never been in trouble with police
- Laws to prevent fine defaulters being jailed are likely to be introduced this year
Mr Yorkshire, 27, is a dancer with Yirra Yaakin, and is appearing in the forthcoming ABC series The Heights.
He was stopped by police last Wednesday morning while out with his girlfriend and her children.
Mr Yorkshire’s mother Cherie said she believed the incident was racially motivated.
“He was at the beach with his girlfriend, with the kids, just getting out for the day … [when] one officer walked up to him and asked him what his name was,” she said.
“[He] gave him his name and didn’t argue, there was no conflict.
“Rubeun could be minding his own business and he gets picked on for no reason.”
‘It has really dented his pride and self-esteem’
Ms Yorkshire said two police cars then arrived at the scene, and after a name check it was revealed Mr Yorkshire had been issued with an order over $1,700 in unpaid fines from 2013.
“That’s when they said ‘you are under arrest for unpaid fines’,” she said.
Ms Yorkshire said her son did not realise there was money outstanding.
“He had a payment plan and he thought he had finished paying it off when the payment plan stopped … but little did he know he still had an outstanding balance on it,” she said.
Ms Yorkshire said her son was strongly involved in the Indigenous community in Western Australia, and family and friends were shocked when they heard about the incident.
“It’s a sad day, everyone was shocked. He’s done a lot of youth programs in Kalgoorlie, Bidyadang [and] youth work in Balga … with all the troubled youth,” she said.
“He has never been in prison, he’s never been in trouble with the police, and it has really dented his pride and his self-esteem.”
Rubeun Yorkshire was released from jail after an anonymous donation. (Facebook: Rubeun Yorkshire)
In the wake of an inquest into the 2014 death in custody of Aboriginal woman Ms Dhu, WA Coroner Ros Fogliani called for laws to be changed so people could no longer be imprisoned for unpaid fines.
The WA Government has committed to changing the laws to keep fine defaulters out of prison.
“The Attorney-General hopes to be in a position to introduce new laws to reform fines enforcement in the first half of 2019,” a spokesman said in a statement.
“The Attorney-General is [also] considering the need to clear outstanding unserved WOC [warrants of commitment] as part of the reform package.
“In the meantime, the registrar of the Fines Enforcement Registry — who is an independent court officer — continues to have the authority to issue WOC for unpaid fines as a measure of last resort in accordance with the current legislation.
The Attorney-General’s Office also said it was providing avenues to support Mr Yorkshire.
‘He was stopped for being black’
Gerry Georgatos from the National Indigenous Critical Response Service said he believed Mr Yorkshire was stopped because he was Indigenous.
“He was stopped dead in his tracks for a name check … I wonder how many non-Indigenous people were name-checked,” he said.
“Yes, he was stopped for being black.”
Mr Georgatos said he raised the issue with WA Police, and they also expressed concern.
He said Mr Yorkshire was released on Sunday after an Indigenous lawyer made an anonymous donation.