Saturday, September 13, 2014
Saturday, August 30, 2014
The Australian Federal Police should not be let "anywhere near" an investigation of fresh evidence casting renewed suspicion on the Calabrian Mafia for the assassination of Colin Winchester, according to a retired judge with extensive knowledge of the case.
The AFP was last week subjected to a blistering criticism for its failure to seriously and impartially investigate secret new information potentially linking the 'Ndrangheta to the 1989 killing of the assistant federal police commissioner outside his Deakin home.
John Dee, QC, retired Victorian judge and counsel assisting to the original inquest into Mr Winchester's death, believes an independent taskforce needs to be set up to properly look at the fresh evidence, utilising Victoria Police, a force with past intelligence involvement in the case.
A senior Victoria Police source said the creation of such a joint organised crime taskforce was feasible, albeit under an AFP lead, and said his state's detectives were skilled and well placed for such a job. "It can be done," he said.
Mr Winchester was said to have double-crossed members of the organised crime group, who believed the assistant commissioner had been paid off to guarantee protection over drug crops near Bungendore.
But 11 Mafia members, known as the "Bungendore 11", were later charged over the crops following a mission codenamed Operation Seville, which Mr Winchester had worked on in the early 1980s.
Links between the group and Mr Winchester's murder were only ever speculative, and extensive investigations failed to identify any individual suspect.
But the inquiry into David Eastman's conviction for Mr Winchester's murder this year unearthed new, untested claims that appear to have taken the Mafia theory further.
The evidence is highly sensitive and was heard in secretive and restricted hearings before inquiry head Acting Justice Brian Martin earlier this year.
Yet internal AFP documents showed the agency was reluctant to investigate the new claims.
They reveal the AFP had a policy of not looking at areas already investigated by Operation Peat, the original team on the Winchester murder.
They also reveal the AFP believed such an investigation would be an "unnecessary diversion" from the factual issues surrounding Eastman's conviction, and that public disclosure of the new evidence could result in public criticism of the agency.
Mr Dee said he believes the AFP are not the right agency to be investigating the 'Ndrangheta theory.
"I wouldn't allow anybody from the AFP to get anywhere near it, except on a peripheral basis," he said.
"I would think it'd be good to have a separate taskforce from [Victoria Police] to have a look at it, because they're well in touch with what's going on up there, and they're very experienced at what they do."
Eastman's long-term campaigner and former lawyer Terry O'Donnell also said the new claims need to be properly investigated, and supported a call for Victoria Police to look at the matter, given their background with the case.
Mr Dee, years before Eastman's trial, warned the AFP about their use of Victorian forensic expert Robert Collins Barnes.
He had worked with Mr Barnes on the trial for the infamous Russell Street bombing of the Victorian police headquarters in 1986, and believed Mr Barnes had not been independent and was trying to be the "star of the show".
It is now known that his warnings were accurate. Mr Barnes was found to be biased and his work deeply flawed in the report of the inquiry into Eastman's conviction.
Posted by JR at 10:14 PM
Saturday, May 31, 2014
The Eastman inquiry has recommended David Eastman’s conviction for the infamous 1989 assassination of ACT police chief Colin Stanley Winchester be quashed.
The extraordinary finding could have the convicted murderer freed after almost 19 years behind bars, should it be followed by the ACT Supreme Court.
If Eastman walks, it will be despite the inquiry's judge saying he is “fairly certain” the former Treasury official killed Mr Winchester.
The inquiry's report finally arrived late on Friday afternoon, after six months, thousands of pages of documents, a conveyor belt of now ageing witnesses, and countless hours of public hearings.
Its recommendations are jaw-dropping.
They could potentially clear Eastman of shooting Mr Winchester, then an Assistant Federal Police Commissioner, twice at close range outside his neighbour's Canberra home late one summer night in 1989.
Inquiry head Acting Justice Brian Martin used the 447-page report to ultimately recommend Eastman’s conviction be quashed, saying a retrial would now neither be feasible nor fair.
Despite the recommendations, Acting Justice Martin said he still thought Eastman was likely to be guilty of the murder.
“While I am fairly certain the applicant is guilty of the murder of the deceased, a nagging doubt remains,” the judge wrote. “Regardless of my view of the case and the applicant’s guilt, the substantial miscarriage of justice suffered by the applicant should not be allowed to stand uncorrected.”
The enormity of his findings may take time to be fully realised.
The cold-blooded killing of Mr Winchester shocked the nation, sparking a lengthy manhunt, and leaving an indelible mark on the minds of Canberrans.
Mr Winchester is the highest ranking police officer ever to be assassinated, and the AFP famously described his death as the "end of innocence" in Australia.
Eastman, a disgruntled public servant trying to avoid an assault charge, quickly became a suspect in the killing and was arrested and taken to trial in 1995, following a lengthy investigation.
The ACT Government, police and prosecutors have remained tight-lipped about the inquiry’s findings so far, saying the matter is before the Supreme Court, which will decide on the next course of action.
Acting Justice Martin said a “substantial miscarriage of justice” had occurred, pointing chiefly to the unreliable gunshot residue analysis used to link Eastman to the scene.
“As a consequence of the substantial miscarriage of justice, the applicant has been in custody for almost 19 years,” Acting Justice Martin wrote.
Eastman, the judge said, was denied a fair chance of acquittal, and did not receive a fair trial.
He said his guilt had been decided on “deeply flawed” forensic evidence, in a trial where Eastman had been denied procedural fairness because of incomplete disclosure by the prosecution of all relevant material to the accused’s defence team.
The work of the case’s key forensic expert, Robert Collins Barnes, was significantly undermined during the inquiry; its credibility and reliability repeatedly savaged.
Barnes, now struggling in a battle with cancer, conceded some of his evidence had been misleading, and the inquiry heard he destroyed crucial exhibits, and failed to write reports for his most important results.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, Liesl Chapman, SC, described his mixing up of results from the crime scene and Eastman’s car by saying: "For a forensic scientist, it doesn't get any worse than that.”
The supposedly independent expert was also covertly recorded professing himself to be a “police witness”, and resisting efforts to have his work reviewed.
“If we don't put a brake on these turkeys ... I mean, we don't want these bastards putting that sort of stuff in writing," Mr Barnes told detectives in 1994.
Barnes was subject to an internal disciplinary investigation in Victoria at the time, and his work was later audited following concerns stemming from his evidence in a separate case.
The Eastman inquiry’s report lies with the ACT Supreme Court, where a full bench will decide on a way forward. The court can only use Acting Justice Martin’s report to aid them in their decision.
ACT Attorney General Simon Corbell said the report was "comprehensive and considered", but it would be up to the court what orders were made.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Jon White, also declined to comment on the report, saying his office needed time to work through the detail.
The AFP also remained tight-lipped, saying it would be inappropriate to comment while the report was before the ACT Supreme Court.
Lawyers for the AFP lost a last-hour attempt to delay publication of the report on Friday afternoon.
Posted by JR at 9:54 AM
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
<i>Email from a member of the public</i>
This incident didn't happen to me but to my elderly parents.
My father is 69 years old. He was driving along with my 65 year old mother. When they came to a red light they stopped and an unmarked police car stopped next to them. When the light changed my dad drove off knowing he had to merge and did so safely in front of the unmarked police car.
The car followed my parents for maybe 30 seconds before turning their lights on and signaling for my father to pull over. There was a male police officer and a female police officer. The male approached my father's car on the drivers side and was extremely abrupt and rude, accusing my father of speeding. My father denied this saying that he most definitely did not speed. The male police officer proceeded to tell my father that he was going 80 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. This was incorrect as the entire road is 80 km/h the whole way.
Again my father denied that he was speeding. My father asked for the male officer to give him his name twice and both times the officer refused. My mother who was sitting in the passenger seat leant over and assured the officer that my father had not been speeding. The officer replied by telling my mother to shut up and sit back in her seat.
My mother is a petite lady and was quite shaken after being spoken to in such a manner. Again the male police officer was telling my father he had been speeding and indicated that he had "everything he needed" to give my father a ticket. My father, at this point somewhat offended on my mother's behalf asked if this had anything to do with him taking off faster than the police car at the traffic light, to which the male officer became quite irate to the point the female officer, who had stayed by the police car, called out for the male officer to just leave it and to 'let's go'.
After a few threatening words to the effect of the male police officer watching my dad from now on, he finally went back to his police car and they sped off.
As you can imagine when I was told by my mother what had happened I was absolutely disgusted with the way my parents had been treated. This is how the police chooses to conduct themselves? It is no wonder that no one trusts the police to do the right thing anymore. I myself have had bad experiences too where I was belittled and made to feel like I wasn't even a worthy human being for them to treat right.
The QLD Police force has to start looking at who they give the badge to because I think the power goes to some officers' heads and they treat us civilians almost like cattle to be pushed around and intimidated. Something needs to be done!
Posted by JR at 8:09 AM
Thursday, May 1, 2014
A mentally ill university student who was shot and killed by a police officer did not brandish a knife threateningly before being shot as the officer claimed but was the victim of a "hasty and precipitous" act by an officer who was not properly trained, a coroner had found.
Elijah Holcombe, 24, died after being shot once in the chest by Senior Constable Andrew Rich in an Armidale laneway on June 2, 2009.
Mr Holcombe was suffering from a mental health breakdown characterised by episodes of paranoia and delusions when Senior Constable Rich and Senior Constable Greg Dufty were asked to find him and a car he had taken from his father the day before.
When the plain-clothes police officer, Constable Rich, found and then chased Mr Holcombe, the victim grabbed a bread knife from a cafe and ran into a laneway.
The officer said he told Mr Holcombe to drop the knife and then fired a single, fatal shot.
Constable Rich said he was acting in self-defence, as the young man had come towards him brandishing the knife.
But, on Thursday, NSW Coroner Mary Jerram rejected the claim that the young man had been acting aggressively.
"Most of those who witnessed the incident said they saw behaviour [by Elijah] that was passive or non-aggressive throughout," Ms Jerram said. "Those who saw the bread knife said it was dangling limply from his hand."
Ms Jerram said Constable Rich's decision to chase Elijah after first speaking to him a few streets from where the shooting occurred, was based on "spurious and spontaneous" reasons.
The officer should have called his station which would no doubt have made him aware of the broad warning to police that Elijah was "extremely scared of police".
Instead, the officer decided at this point, without cause, that he needed to arrest Elijah, claiming later that, after observing the young man's demeanour, he was concerned for his safety and that of others. "Elijah's demeanour was not a basis for depriving him of his liberty," Ms Jerram said.
"It is clear that police have not been properly trained in how to deal with people who are suffering from a mental illness.
"Rich had participated in a one-hour lecture as a trainee officer and later a couple of online tutorials."
She acknowledged that NSW Police was in the process of rolling out a full-day workshop on dealing with the mentally ill.
Speaking outside court, Elijah's father Jeremy Holcombe and his lawyer called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to reconsider its previous decision not to lay any charges in relation to the matter.
"It has been five years since we lost our beautiful son, brother and friend," said Mr Holcombe, choking back tears. "The allegation that Elijah had to be destroyed in order to protect the safety of another person had never been accepted by those who knew him best."
Mr Holcombe said that Senior Constable Rich had consistently refused to repeat his allegation, that Elijah had threatened him, under oath and with the potential for cross-examination.
"We have always maintained that Senior Constable Rich is entitled to the presumptions of innocence but we ask 'what about Elijah's right?'" Mr Holcombe said.
"We were unable to protect Elijah from harm but we remain committed to protecting his reputation. "We must once again respectfully ask the NSW DPP to reconsider this matter for criminal proceedings."
Posted by JR at 5:33 PM
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
A NSW POLICEMAN was charged yesterday with raping a young child.
The Southern Region senior constable was charged with aggravated sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 10.
He also faces charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Despite the seriousness of the charges it took police four days to publicly release details.
The senior constable was handed a court attendance notice on Thursday but a media release about the charges were not released publicly until 9.07pm last night
A NSW police spokesperson said the reason for the delay was “internal approval processes”, which must go to Assistant Commissioner level before being approved.
“As per NSW Police protocol, a media release was issued once the appropriate approval processes were completed.”
A NSW Police spokeswoman declined to confirm the officer’s age or if he had been stood down.
He will appear in Goulburn Local Court on 18 June.
Posted by JR at 8:26 PM
Saturday, April 5, 2014
<i>Video at link</i>
THIS is the video ex-football star Campbell Brown says shows he copped a “coathanger” from Gold Coast police.
Brown says the CCTV footage proves officers were out of bounds when they arrested him at a Broadbeach nightclub earlier this year.
Police last week dropped charges of obstructing police and attempting to force his way back into East nightclub during a night of celebrations after his horse Sweet Idea won the Magic Millions Trophy race in January.
Police initially claimed the former Gold Coast Suns player had shoulder-charged them.
But Brown has accused police of fabricating charges against him. “Police basically made up a story,’’ he told News Corp Australia last week.
“We caught them out by getting the CCTV footage of what actually happened. To be brutally honest, that was an absolute disgrace. They (police) had to throw out the case in embarrassment.’’
A police statement of facts, obtained by The Courier-Mail, alleges Brown was refused entry to East, where he had been drinking with friends, but was argumentative and refused to leave.
But his lawyer, Chris Nyst, said the CCTV footage showed “quite clearly that the incident did not occur in the way asserted by police”.
Mr Nyst said the footage showed Brown apparently waiting peacefully outside the nightclub while a friend went inside to retrieve the ex-footballer’s credit card.
It then shows Brown later being led down an alleyway by police, thrown to the ground and handcuffed after his friend becomes agitated.
“Once I had the opportunity to review the footage, it was immediately apparent to me it did not support the police version of events,’’ Mr Nyst said.
“I brought that footage to the attention of the chief prosecutor, whereupon he promptly — and in my view very sensibly — agreed to discontinue the prosecution.’’
Mr Nyst said police claims they withdrew the charges because of a lack of clarity in the footage “are simply not correct”.
“This case is a good example of why people should not prejudge such matters,’’ he said. “Brown copped a lot of sledging from people who knew nothing about the charges. We have a presumption of innocence, and this is a timely reminder of what good sense that makes.’’
Brown was sacked by the Suns after breaking teammate Steven May’s jaw on a pre-season trip to the US last November.
Note: A coathanger is a dangerous high tackle in Australian rules football, Rugby League, and Rugby Union. It occurs when a running player is stopped by an arm to the chest or neck and usually gets knocked backward onto their back. ...
Posted by JR at 12:58 PM
Monday, February 3, 2014
THE freckled face of 13-year-old Jordan Rice made headlines around the world when he died with his mother in a flash flood that hit Toowoomba three years ago.
Blond-haired Jordan's final selfless act, urging a rescuer to save his little brother Blake before him, touched hearts everywhere, and moved Prince William to fly to Queensland to console his family.
But this is a story of what happens when the cameras go away and a family is left to pick up the pieces. I
It is also a story about the grim undercurrent of suspicion remaining between the survivors and authorities they feel compounded their troubles, in the wake of intense media attention.
It begins with the triple-0 call made by Donna Rice, 43, at 1.50pm on January 10, 2011, as she sat in her stalled Mercedes at a red light in a main street of Toowoomba with floodwaters swirling around her wheels. Jordan and Blake, 11, were in the back seat.
A coronial inquest found the man who answered Donna's call, Senior Constable Jason Wheeler "did not treat her call with the seriousness it warranted and did not treat her with respect". That's putting it mildly.
Wheeler chastised Donna for driving into floodwaters, when in fact the coroner found she had cautiously stopped in shallow water while other cars forged ahead.
But the water rose unusually fast and within minutes engulfed the car, forcing Donna and her boys onto the roof.
When Donna asked Wheeler to call a tow truck, he retorted: "You ring the tow truck company yourself."
He assigned Donna's call a low priority, and no help was dispatched.
Seven minutes later Jordan rang triple-0: "We're nearly drowning, hurry up please."
By then, two passing strangers Warren McErlean and Chris Skehan were risking their lives. Warren, 41, was knocked over twice in the swift-running water.
When Chris reached the car, Warren recalls Jordan and his mother urged him to take Blake.
"After Jordan told the rescuer to take me first, the guy said, 'C'mon little man, it will be OK'," Blake testified.
Chris passed the boy to Warren, who carried him to safety. But by the time he made it back to Donna and Jordan, the water had risen so fast the car was washed away. Chris managed to grab hold of a power pole but Donna and Jordan drowned.
It was a horrendous scene, watched by a screaming Blake.
But what happened next only compounded the grief.
Donna's partner and the father of her four boys, John Tyson, 49, still burns about police allegations that Jordan urged his mother to drive through the floodwaters, a claim later rejected by the coroner.
Police also claimed Donna displayed no urgency when talking to triple-0, and that emergency calls that day were handled "brilliantly".
John alleged in the Queensland's Floods Commission that 17 days after his wife and son died, he was heavied by a police inspector, who told him not to speak to the media about the triple-0 calls.
The officer did not return our calls but at the commission denied threatening John, and tendered the transcript of a recording he made of their conversation on a wristwatch recorder.
The partial transcript and audio, stored in the Queensland State Archives, do not show any threats made.
John says the transcript is incomplete and the officer's secret recording indicates an adversarial approach.
In any case, after the tragedy, John was beset by problems and felt abandoned by his hometown. He lost his plastering business, and took the $145,000 insurance money to the Gold Coast to start afresh with Blake, now 13.
He works as a labourer but struggles to pay the mortgage on his new house, and may have to return to Toowoomba.
Posted by JR at 1:20 PM
Friday, January 24, 2014
A Sydney arts student has won more than $243,000 in damages after a scuffle with police ended with her leg broken.
Rachel Gardner sued the state of NSW, claiming she was attacked by NSW Police officers after being caught without a train ticket at Cronulla Railway Station in Sydney's south on March 13, 2011.
Ms Gardner claimed Sergeant Craig Sands kicked both her legs out from under her, breaking her right leg.
The 36-year-old also claimed police directed a transit officer to sit on her as she lay on the ground.
Police then loaded her into a paddy wagon and dumped her at another train station in the Sutherland area.
She had sought damages of up to $750,000 for the injuries, humiliation, anxiety and loss of social status.
In a judgment delivered on Friday, Judge Sharron Norton ordered the state of NSW pay the student $243,591 in damages, plus interest.
Outside court, Ms Gardner's solicitor Penelope Purcell said her client was very pleased with the result.
"She feels vindicated by the judgment," she said.
Asked whether she was looking forward to returning to studies, Ms Gardner replied "absolutely".
During a court hearing last year, the Crown argued Ms Gardner's level of intoxication, as perceived by Sgt Sands, should be considered.
However, Ms Gardner's lawyer claimed the police officer's actions were intentional and intended to cause injury.
Posted by JR at 10:34 AM
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
KEVIN Spratt is relieved that two policemen who repeatedly tasered him in a Perth lockup were today convicted of assault, saying it confirms "no one is above the law."
Auxiliary officer Troy Gregory Tomlin, 34, was found guilty of all three charges of common assault, while Sergeant Aaron Grant Strahan, 45, was convicted of three of four charges. The fourth common assault charge could not be proven.
Strahan and Tomlin have been on trial for six days, jointly accused of common assault over the tasering of Mr Spratt in the East Perth watch house in September 2008.
CCTV footage showed the senior constables tasering Mr Spratt nine times in just over a minute after he refused to be stripsearched.
In handing down his decision in Perth Magistrates Court this afternoon, Magistrate Richard Bromfield acquitted Strahan of the fourth assault charge because there was insufficient evidence that the Taser actually struck Mr Spratt on that occasion.
He convicted the officers of all other charges, saying there was no reason for self-defence and their actions were "not authorised or justified."
Mr Bromfield will sentence the officers tomorrow morning.
Mr Spratt was not in court today, but in a statement issued after the verdict he said it was a "huge relief that justice has finally been delivered."
"I am pleased that the court has confirmed that no one is above the law and a Taser should only be used as a last resort," he said.
"I am hopeful that today's convictions and the views previously expressed by the CCC will make it less likely others would suffer at the hands of police misusing their power."
Mr Spratt will soon apply to the Attorney-General for an ex-gratia compensation payment. If that is unsuccessful, he will consider launching a civil case against the two officers and possibly others.
The policemen were charged following an inquiry by the Corruption and Crime Commission in a case that made international headlines. In April 2012, the CCC recommended the Director of Public Prosecutions consider laying charges against the pair.
The officers' defence lawyer Karen Vernon has argued for spent convictions and either a good behaviour bond or fines rather than imprisonment. She said it had been a "long and dark period" for her clients.
Both officers were senior constables at the time, but Strahan has since been promoted to a sergeant while Tomlin has become an auxiliary officer for WA Police.
Ms Vernon submitted Tomlin stepped down from frontline policing over the events in question.
"It seems that for them this is a situation that just continues to play out and play out in the public arena," she said.
Tomlin and Strahan had already been fined $1200 and $750 respectively after an internal WA Police disciplinary hearing and they had suffered personal condemnation and shame, she said.
Ms Vernon also said her clients, who could lose their jobs as a result of the verdict, would seek to apply for a spent conviction as it would dent their employment prospects.
However, state prosecutor James MacTaggart said a spent conviction would "trivialise" the pair's conduct and submitted a "substantial fine" would be appropriate.
During the trial, Ms Vernon argued that Mr Spratt had became uncontrollable and the officers had used justifiable force as Mr Spratt was extremely difficult to restrain.
But Mr MacTaggart said Mr Spratt wasn't posing a threat to anyone.
"To the extent that it's suggested that the application (of the taser) was self-defence ... we say that was not a reasonable response in the circumstances," Mr MacTaggart said. "On the floor he didn't constitute a threat. "With so many officers around ... there was simply no need to exercise the taser again."
The court was told that when Tomlin first tasered Mr Spratt he said "give me your hand or you're going to get f...... tasered" before he went on to taser Mr Spratt for three seconds.
After Strahan first tasered Mr Spratt, he then him "do you want to go again? Do you want to go again?" before shocking him for another five seconds.
Posted by JR at 6:41 AM
Monday, January 20, 2014
THERE are 437 serving police officers with criminal convictions, that is one in every 40 officers. It is an incredible increase of 230 per cent over the past five years.
Among the ranks is an inspector convicted of assaulting an off-duty officer and drink-driving while other offences include bashing, drink-driving, fraud, illegal use of guns and other driving offences.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the 437 officers have 591 convictions against them. That is 256 per cent more than 2008 when, according to freedom of information figures, there were 166 offences between 133 serving officers.
Among them are 14 inspectors, five senior sergeants, 80 sergeants, 236 senior constables, 20 probationary constables and 13 student officers.
Policing expert Michael Kennedy said the reason for the increase was probably due to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione taking a tough line and a culture of police reporting and prosecuting their own.
"On face value these figures appear to be negative for the police but on the other side, Scipione does not interfere," Dr Kennedy said.
Dr Kennedy, a former detective and lecturer in policing at the University of Western Sydney, said some police chiefs in parts of Australia had been known for "having a word" with officers facing the criminal courts so they could resign quietly. "But Scipione does not do that. If they are charged, he lets the system deal with them," he said.
Former assistant commissioner Clive Small said: "An increase of over 200 per cent over five years is a worrying trend that the police and the government need to keep an eye on."
In cases still in the courts, a female officer has been charged with stalking, intimidating and bugging, a male officer has been accused of setting up a bathroom spy camera to secretly film people and theft, lying and corruption.
Mr Scipione said he had no tolerance for officers who broke the law and committed serious offences. "If an officer's offence causes me to lose my confidence in them, I will sack them. They will not be part of this police force," he said.
However he said less serious offences should not warrant the end of a career but often the workplace penalties were worse than court penalties with officers demoted.
"Yes, there are officers still in this organisation who we have charged and who have recorded a conviction," Mr Scipione said.
"In the majority of cases, these officers will have been convicted of a low range PCA or similar offence. While I am not happy about that, I don't believe that warrants the end of a ... career."
Since he took over as commissioner in 2007, Mr Scipione has sacked 87 officers under section 181D of the Police Act, which states the commissioner has lost confidence in them. Those are officers who have not been reinstated by the Industrial Relations Commission.
Senior police are known to be frustrated with the IRC which has forced them to reinstate an estimated half of all sacked officers after appeals.
The IRC has made it clear in their decisions that even a high-range PCA or similar offence could never be grounds for dismissal.
Former sergeant Andrew Lawrance, who the commissioner tried to sack in 2010 because he used his penis piercing to open beer bottles, was reinstated by the IRC.
Mr Scipione was warned about criticising the commission in 2009 by Justice Frank Marks, who considered contempt of court proceedings against the commissioner
Posted by JR at 6:13 PM
Friday, December 13, 2013
Four police officers who were involved in the violent and lethal arrest of a young Brazilian student will have criminal assault charges laid against them.
Roberto Laudisio Curti, 21, died on Pitt Street in the early hours of March 18, 2012, following a chase by, and violent struggle with, 11 police officers, many of whom were acting on incorrect reports of an armed robbery.
He had earlier jumped the counter of a convenience store in an LSD-induced psychotic state and left with two packets of biscuits.
The talented football player had been out in Kings Cross celebrating a win with friends but ended up roaming the city's streets on his own in a paranoid, sweaty state.
Two police officers spotted him wandering down Pitt Street and tried to speak to him before he ran off. More officers joined the chase and eventual restraint.
Tasers were fired up to 14 times - nine of which hit Mr Curti - and he was restrained by seven officers using three cans of OC spray, two sets of handcuffs, a police baton and "half a tonne" of officers, an inquest heard last October.
State Coroner Mary Jerram stopped short of recommending criminal charges and instead referred the matter to the Police Integrity Commission when she handed down scathing findings.
The Police Integrity Commission referred an extensive brief of evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions in May, recommending that some of the officers be charged.
On Friday, the DPP advised the PIC that there was sufficient evidence to charge four of the officers.
It is expected that Senior Constable Scott Edmondson and Constable Daniel Barling will be charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and Senior Constable Eric Lim and Senior Constable Damien Ralph will be charged with the lesser offence of common assault.
Senior Constable Edmondson Tasered Mr Curti twice in the back as he lay on the ground resisting arrest and was one of five officers picked out by Ms Jerram for their "reckless, careless, dangerous and excessively forceful" actions.
Constable Barling was also chastised for Tasering Mr Curti five times in "drive stun" mode whereby the Taser is pressed against the skin rather than shot from afar.
Senior Constable Ralph used three partial cans of capsicum spray on Mr Curti, possibly as close as 10 centimetres from his face, while several police officers were on top of him.
Senior Constable Lim told the inquest that he tried to tackle Mr Curti twice but, considering he weighed just 55 kilograms, fired his Taser once to bring Mr Curti to the ground and another time when Mr Curti was on the ground in handcuffs.
Ms Jerram found that the police officers acted "like schoolboys in Lord of the Flies" and their "thuggish" actions contributed to the death of Mr Curti.
It is expected that the DPP will lay the charges in the next week and the four officers will appear before a court in the new year.
Posted by JR at 10:45 AM
Saturday, November 23, 2013
A WA police detective caught up in a worldwide operation combating child pornography has been jailed for more than two years by a judge in Perth.
Lynton John Moore, 30, was one of hundreds of men arrested after a global operation to track down the client list of a Canadian-hosted website which allowed customers to trade and purchase child sex images and videos.
In June, Moore was raided by his WA police colleagues who found more than 20,000 images and videos featuring boys as young as seven being exploited.
He also refused to hand over the password to the hard disks containing the images - which Judge Ronald Birmingham said were "vile and degrading".
Moore, who briefly worked as a teacher before joining the police, was a decorated detective when he was arrested, having received a commendation for attempting to revive a murder victim, and being involved in church activities.
But lawyer Mark Andrews said his client also had deep underlying emotional and psychological issues including a lack of strategies to cope with job stresses.
He had lost his job as a result of the charges, Perth District Court was told, and as a former detective he will have to serve his sentence in a segregated special handling unit.
Moore pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing the material found in his home, and was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. He will be eligible for parole.
In all, more than 60 men and over 400 charges have been laid as part of Operation Thunderer, the Australian arm of the global operation emanating out of Canada.
That operation, codenamed Project Spade, was launched three years ago by Toronto police and is believed to have disbanded a global child abuse ring, and led to the arrest of almost 350 suspects worldwide.
Seven men from WA - including priests and teachers - were last week charged with various offences related to their alleged involvement.
Posted by JR at 12:20 PM
Friday, November 22, 2013
WESTERN Australia's top cop has backed the Perth policeman who has become an internet viral hit after being filmed swearing at a cyclist during a confrontation over a ticket.
Video footage of the confrontation posted on Facebook by John Martin attracted more than 21,300 likes in 24 hours, and was shared nearly 6000 times.
In the clip, the man argumentatively asks what crime he has committed and tells the officer to go "stop some f...ing criminals".
The policeman then walks close to the man and says: "If you swear one more f...ing time I will put you in the lock up for disorderly, just like last time".
"I will deny your bail and some big fella is going to play with your a....... during the night. "If that's what you want, say one more f...ing swear word."
The police revealed the officer had admitted to overreacting, and Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said he would be counselled.
But an outpouring of public support for the officer also prompted the commissioner to back his man.
"He was under pressure from someone who is extremely cocky, had a very bad attitude ... the policeman was trying to do his job and he gets this tirade back. He lost his cool," the Commissioner told 6PR.
"This guy has accepted no blame for the escalation of the situation whatsoever. His total view of the world is it is somebody else's problem, they did the wrong thing and I was OK.
"The public have had enough of this general lack of respect for people in authority, and not just police."
The commissioner also said he would be asking investigators to inspect the Facebook page where the video was posted. "Maybe he wants to run home from work and pull it down before we see it," Mr O'Callaghan said.
The incident occurred on Fyfe St, Forrestfield at about 2.30pm on Tuesday afternoon.
Yesterday, Mr Martin, 24, told Nine News he was considering pressing charges against the officer. "It's unacceptable, police shouldn't be allowed to treat the public like that," he said. "You shouldn't threaten anyone with rape, especially if you're a police officer."
Yesterday police Inspector Dominic Wood said the officer had admitted he acted inappropriately, but that the snippet of footage does not show the whole event.
"We have thousands of interactions every day with police officers talking to members of the public. This is rare," Insp Wood said.
"It's a tough job and that officer has come across somebody that's obviously pushed his buttons and tried to get a reaction.
"The officer wouldn't have known he was being recorded under those circumstances."
Police union president George Tilbury said officers dealt with the public 24 hours a day and were often involved in "frustrating and stressful situations."
"As the full video has not been uploaded and the entirety of the circumstances are unknown, it is very difficult to comment on the actions of the officer," Mr Tilbury said.
"However, police officers should always do their utmost to portray a professional image, which can be difficult given that they are under more scrutiny than any other profession.
"Our members need to be aware that in this modern age of technology their actions and interactions with the public will be filmed, often without their knowledge or permission."
Police Minister Liza Harvey indicated to reporters that using foul language was inappropriate but she would leave the matter to police to investigate internally.
Posted by JR at 12:21 PM