Monday, February 25, 2013

Judge's blast for Tasmania police

A SUPREME Court judge has criticised police misconduct in an investigation into the theft of more than $80,000 in cash and cheques from a North-West Coast car dealer.

Kathryn Anne Woodberry, 39, was found guilty in November of stealing the money from her Devonport employer Gowans Motors and was jailed for nine months.

It can now be revealed that in a pre-trial hearing, Supreme Court Justice Alan Blow ruled critical evidence to be inadmissible because investigating officers had broken the law.

Justice Blow found the sergeant conducting the investigation failed to inform Woodberry she was under arrest, did not allow her to phone a lawyer and unlawfully compelled her to submit to a search of her home.

The judge also found the officer obtained evidence unlawfully by questioning her at work without making a video recording.

He was so unimpressed by some of the evidence given by the officer he said he was unable to place any reliance on it and said that it did not reflect well on the officer's credibility or that of another officer who testified in the case.

"The evidence of the two detectives and that of the accused is so different that it is clear that at least one witness has told lies ... it may be that all three have done so."

Justice Blow ruled the evidence could not be used.

"Police officers need to be made aware of the importance of conducting their investigations properly and in accordance with the law," he said.

"One sure way of doing that is to exclude evidence obtained by improper and unlawful means, and evidence obtained in consequence of improper and unlawful conduct."

Justice Blow said he did not expect Tasmania Police would take action against the officer for breaching the law and police procedures.

In 2007, Justice Blow made similar findings against the same officer over his dealings with a suspect when questioned in a drugs case.

Woodberry was convicted on the basis of other evidence.

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