Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hopelessly corrupt Victoria Police face further brutality claims

And, as in Queensland, people have to file civil claims in order to bring goons to justice

FURTHER allegations of police brutality have emerged in the state's north-east, with civil claims filed over the alleged bashing of two women, including a disabled woman who was allegedly knocked to the ground and capsicum-sprayed, and a man who says police kicked him in the testicles.

The allegations are the latest in a series of police brutality cases that lawyers and community workers say is a problem in the region and which, they say, the Victoria Police watchdog, the Ethical Standards Department, fails to properly investigate.

The Age last week revealed details of an incident on May 2 in which two Mansfield officers, Senior Constable Paul Bell and former senior constable David Eric Farrell kicked, punched and hit with batons two men who had been caught doing burnouts outside the police station. They pleaded guilty to offences including intentionally causing injury after an Ethical Standards investigation uncovered a video of the incident, captured on the dashboard camera of a patrol car.

Mansfield officers Sergeant Cameron McPherson and Senior Constable Paul Storey also face allegations, accused of unlawfully entering a property in Merton, where the elderly mother of two alleged victims lives, on June 13, 2009. It is understood the officers were responding to a complaint by neighbours.

The officers allegedly came through the gate with batons drawn and tried to enter the house without authority, at which point an argument broke out and they are accused of assaulting the alleged victims with batons and capsicum spray.

Martyn Cooper, then 39, who was living at the address and was known to police, alleges he was kicked in the testicles and beaten. His sister, Catherine Louise Alexiadis, also known to police, alleges she was hit with a baton, capsicum-sprayed and suffered extensive injuries, including bruising to her breast, neck, head, legs and buttock and psychological trauma.

Susan Lesley, in her 50s, alleges she received injuries to her shoulder, hip, back and exacerbation of psychological trauma. She is partially wheelchair-bound and uses a walking frame. The three, and another man who was present, were charged with offences including assaulting police, resisting arrest and hindering police, but the charges were struck out in November 2010.

Mr Cooper's mother, 83, was inside the house at the time on oxygen, but said she was not involved in the altercation. The incident was reported to Ethical Standards, which did not find evidence of wrongdoing. But the claims will be tested in a civil court.

In a writ filed in the County Court at Wangaratta on December 13, the plaintiffs claim damages, interest and costs incurred.

A Victoria Police spokesman said an investigation had found the claims "completely unsubstantiated" and the result had been routinely reviewed by the Office of Police Integrity. He said neither Victoria Police nor the members had received any notification of civil action and Victoria Police was not aware of any writs being lodged in the County Court.

Senior counsel Dyson Hore-Lacy previously told The Age that in dozens of cases he had handled over many years involving serious claims of wrongful conduct against police, nearly all were substantiated by the civil courts or settled in the complainants' favour. But he could recall only one of these cases being substantiated by Ethical Standards, and that was when a police officer unexpectedly confessed.

Other parties, including one of the victims bashed on video on May 2, are understood to be considering civil action in relation to three alleged incidents of police brutality within the past two years.


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