Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Payouts to falsely jailed up by $1m in NSW

THE NSW Police Force was forced to pay out more than $5 million to compensate people it had falsely imprisoned and assaulted last financial year. Figures provided by the office of the Police Minister, Mike Gallacher, in response to questions from the Greens, show this was a $1 million increase on the previous year.

Mr Gallacher said there were 10 matters concerned solely with compensation for false imprisonment, costing a total of $879,102.43. In 2009-10, there were six matters which cost both parties $410,171.92.

A Greens MP, David Shoebridge, who requested the budget estimates figures, said they reveal that in 2010-11 the NSW Police Force paid out more than $5 million for cases involving allegations of police assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, compared to about $4 million the previous year.

"The Police Integrity Commission continues to take a hands-off approach to allegations of police assault and refuses to investigate most complaints," Mr Shoebridge said. "This is far from ideal. "The growing cost and number of these cases are signs of systemic failure of police oversight, which should be of grave concern to the people of NSW and the Police Minister."

Mr Shoebridge said a "genuinely" independent oversight body was needed to investigate these matters.

Paddy Gibson, a researcher at the University of Technology Sydney, was arrested and detained for a few hours in 2007 after a protest during President George Bush's visit to Sydney. He said he was arrested at the end of the demonstration and was sitting in Hyde Park, which was not an excluded area, after the demonstration. He said an out-of-court settlement was reached for his false imprisonment.

A spokesman for the NSW Police said the number of complaints against police for using unreasonable force (including assaults) had dropped from 510 (2009-10) to 478 (2010-11).

A spokesman for Mr Gallacher said appropriate "checks and balances" were in place to investigate complaints against police officers.


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