Saturday, March 2, 2013

Officer who failed to issue alert on sinking boat set to be demoted

A POLICE officer who failed to alert authorities that a boat was sinking in the Torres Strait before five people died is likely to be demoted, after a successful Crime and Misconduct Commission appeal.

A girl, four, and four other people drowned when the Malu Sara went down on the way from Saibai to Badu Island in October 2005.

Thursday Island Sergeant Warren Flegg was told the vessel was taking on water but did not tell rescue authorities that the boat was in distress until hours later.

After a disciplinary hearing an Assistant Commissioner found Sgt Flegg should be demoted to Senior Constable for two years, but suspended the order, subject to him completing training.

In February last year a Queensland Civil and Administrative Appeal Tribunal senior member dismissed the CMC's appeal against that decision, finding that the sanction was appropriate.

But the CMC brought a fresh appeal, on the basis that a reasonable tribunal would have found the sanction "unreasonable or plainly unjust". The Commission no longer asked for Sgt Flegg to be dismissed.

On February 20 QCAT appeal tribunal members Justice Alan Wilson and Dr Bridget Cullen said a suspended sentence did not reflect the seriousness of Sgt Flegg's misconduct and it was "surprising".

"His failure to pass on critical information as soon as practicable was a very serious omission, particularly when he was a trained search and rescue co-ordinator," Justice Wilson said.   "The failure to discharge that duty persisted for some hours, compounding its seriousness."

Justice Wilson said in his view Sgt Flegg should be demoted to Senior Constable for two years from a date to be decided and be allowed to apply for a sergeant's position only after two years, under certain conditions.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Judge says NSW police wrong to strip search black kid

A District Court judge has found police in Broken Hill were wrong to strip search a 17-year-old intellectually disabled boy by the side of the road.

A magistrate found the boy, who cannot be named because of his age, guilty of possessing a small amount of cannabis after he was arrested and strip-searched in July 2011.

But his lawyers appealed against that, arguing the evidence was not admissible because the strip search was improper.

Judge Jennifer English agreed.  She found police had no reasonable grounds for arresting the boy and searching in his underpants.

He was stopped and searched by police unlawfully, because the police simply had no reasonable suspicion.

Stephen Lawrence from the Aboriginal Legal Service, which represents the boy, says there was no valid reason to stop the boy.

"He was stopped and searched by police unlawfully, because the police simply had no reasonable suspicion.  "So this is a case of a young person simply being stopped for no reason. For no valid reason."

Mr Lawrence says the boy had been stopped by police 26 times in the previous two-and-a-half years and he had never once been found with drugs.

He says there should be an investigation.  "Any citizen in the community would find that to be an unusual circumstance and certainly one that would call for an investigation," he said.

Mr Lawrence says the boy's family has requested the state ombudsman launch an inquiry into the case.

A police spokesman says it is reviewing the court's decision to see whether any action will be taken.

Ombudsman criticizes killer NSW cops

For no good reason they piled onto the student after he was down

The family of a Brazilian student who died in Sydney after being tasered and sprayed with capsicum spray say they are disgusted at what they say is a complete lack of accountability for police officers.

Roberto Laudisio Curti died on March 18 last year in Sydney's central business district while being restrained by New South Wales police officers.

The state's ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, has criticised the force's own investigation into the incident, describing some aspects of it as farcical.

In a report that was released yesterday, Mr Barbour called for his office to be able to monitor any internal police investigations into incidents involving a death.

Mr Curti had been living in Sydney with his sister Ana Laudisio de Lucca and her husband Mike Reynolds.

The couple spoke exclusively to the ABC's AM program after the ombudsman's report was released.

Ana Laudisio de Lucca says her family is still struggling with the shock of her brother's death.  "He left this world and nothing came out of this for the better, so that's why waiting for answers is very frustrating," she said.

On the night of his death Mr Curti had taken LSD, making him paranoid and delusional, and stole a packet of biscuits from a convenience store.

Police pursued the 21-year-old, firing Tasers at him 14 times and also blasting him with capsicum spray.

Last year Coroner Mary Jerram made an open finding on Mr Curti's death.  But she also said, "It's impossible to believe that he would have died, but for the actions of police."

Ombudsman Bruce Barbour says the internal police investigation into the death was lacking.  "The police investigation into the death of Mr Laudisio Curti failed to adequately identify and deal with the question of whether there was any police misconduct," his report says.

Mr Curti's brother-in-law, Mike Reynolds, welcomes Mr Barbour's findings.  "Look, I think it's incredible. Unfortunately it is not entirely surprising," he said.

"I just think that throughout this process we have kind of had the feeling that the police have been trying hard not to admit that they've done anything wrong and that's really tough for us to deal with."

In his report Mr Barbour says that, despite collecting evidence, it appears no-one in the New South Wales Police Force wanted to address difficult questions about the conduct of officers.

He says leaving the four officers under investigation armed with their Tasers for eight months after Mr Curti's death ignored the risk those officers posed to the community.

Mr Barbour says there was a "farcical situation" where the internal investigation team and the Taser Review Panel each assumed the other would review the use of Tasers by the officers.

Mr Curti's sister and her family still live in Sydney, but no longer have any trust in the state's police.

"Following closely the case, you can see that a lot of these officers are really young, they barely have any training and they're just giving arms that look like toys to go out there," Ana Laudisio de Lucca said.

"When you really think about it, the fact that this could go wrong and the fact that they can be promoted and they are even still police officers is, I think, quite scary," Mr Reynolds said.

"So unfortunately you don't have a degree of confidence in the police as a result of that."