Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Two policemen found guilty of Taser assault against Kevin Spratt

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.

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