Saturday, February 26, 2011

NSW police fiasco

Fraud case thrown out as soon as the DPP got the brief of evidence. It never got to court. If anybody should have been charged, it would have been the property valuer

It was a three-year police investigation into an alleged multi-million-dollar Kings Cross mortgage fraud with a cast including three of Sydney's best-known party boys, but it ended yesterday as a $1 million fiasco.

The District Court was told charges against self-styled moneyman Abe Adrian Camilleri, 36, and his former business partner Matthew Rhodin, 43, had been no-billed by the Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC.

According to documents tendered in court, their friend, nightclub baron John Ibrahim, 40, was allegedly the only person who got anything out of the whole deal - $500,000, which he used to fit out one of his clubs, court documents showed. He was never charged.

Outside court, Camilleri's barrister Charles Waterstreet said there was a lack of evidence of any wrongdoing. "The whole case was never worth a crumb," he said.

Camilleri, a one-time boyfriend of supermodel Miranda Kerr, and Rhodin, ex-boyfriend of Australia's Next Top Model star Charlotte Dawson, had been charged with dishonestly obtaining a Commonwealth Bank loan of $7,350,000 based on an inflated valuation for a property in Darlinghurst Rd, opposite the Coca-Cola sign.

Police claimed the valuation was based on false claims that they were to be paid $385,000 a year in rent for three floors of the building, which houses Tatler's nightclub.

The court heard the property was bought through one of Rhodin's companies but only the first mortgage payment was made. The bank foreclosed on the loan, the company wound up and the bank subsequently sold the building at a loss of $4.2 million.

Documents tendered to the court claimed Camilleri allegedly told company receivers Ferrier Hodgson that Ibrahim had wanted to turn the building into a new nightclub and had allegedly told Camilleri and Rhodin during the property transaction to "get the job done or there would be trouble".

A memo from an officer with the receivers that was tendered in court claimed Camilleri told him that $500,000 of the mortgage money was loaned to Ibrahim. The receivers allegedly did not recover that money. Camilleri never made a statement to police.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Aboriginal man who was tasered 14 times by W.A. police wins appeal after miscarriage of justice

An Aboriginal man tasered 14 times at a Perth watch-house has successfully appealed his conviction for obstructing police. Kevin Spratt in the WA Supreme Court on Thursday was acquitted of the charges after Justice Stephen Hall ruled there had been a miscarriage of justice.

Justice Hall said Mr Spratt's guilty plea had been induced by false allegations made by the police prosecution.

Mr Spratt's conviction was questioned after Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) hearings in December prompted Constable Brett Fowler, who laid the charge, to admit the police statement used to obtain the conviction was false. Const Fowler admitted during the CCC hearing that his description of Mr Spratt "kicking" police was contradicted by CCTV footage.

Mr Spratt admitted the offence because he did not remember the incident. He was sentenced to two months' jail, to be served concurrently with an 18-month prison term for other crimes.

Outside court on Thursday, Mr Spratt's lawyer, Steven Penglis, told reporters his client was "pleased" with the outcome. "It's a step, obviously, in the right direction so far as Kevin's concerned," he said. "It has the effect, of course, of getting rid of the suggestion that Kevin was tasered in a Perth watch-house as a consequence of some unlawful conduct on his behalf."

Mr Spratt said the ordeal had brought back a lot of bad memories for him. "I just want to move on with my life," he said outside court.

WA opposition legal affairs spokesman John Quigley said the matter had been a "wicked perversion of justice" by the police and a "grave insult" to the administration of justice.

"This has happened right under the nose of Police Minister Rob Johnson," he said. "It's inconceivable that he didn't know about this. This was on his watch." Mr Quigley said Mr Johnson must "confess" that he was either involved in a cover-up or had "fallen asleep at the wheel" by not knowing about the incident.

"There is a serious miscarriage of justice and we now have to have an inquiry," he said.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Low life Victorian police exposed

THE Office of Police Integrity has won an award for its role in a controversial probe into a racist and pornographic email scandal that rocked Victoria Police. Eight officers were sacked and at least another 13 were demoted or fined over the scandal.

Healesville sergeant Tony Vangorp took his life in March last year after he was suspended and told he faced the sack over inappropriate emails.

Three officers were involved in circulating video footage of an Indian man being electrocuted and suggesting it could be a way to fix Melbourne's Indian student problem. The scandal made headlines in India in October after the Herald Sun revealed details of that video.

The investigation was one of the most controversial in the force's history, dividing members over the seriousness of the officers' actions and what should happen to them. Those sacked included a long-serving member of the Ethical Standards Department and three sergeants.

The first batch of offensive emails were discovered during an OPI investigation of another matter. The OPI then had an oversight role during Victoria Police's investigation, Operation Barrott.

Offensive emails identified during Barrott's sweep of the police computer network contained pornographic, homophobic, racist and violent material, but nothing illegal, such as child porn.

The Institute of Public Administration awarded the OPI the Australia Award for Risk Management.

OPI director Michael Strong said a program had been developed to assist police in assessing the relative gravity of the behaviour of hundreds of police members caught in Operation Barrott.

He said some of the emails detected in the operation had depicted graphic violence, which was at times linked to racial slurs. "What we set out to do was to establish a matrix against which the behaviour of police members could be measured to try to ensure fair and consistent outcomes in the discipline process," he said.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Qld. Cops soft on their own

CMC chief Martin Moynihan says lax internal investigations erode public confidence in police, writes Renee Viellaris

The head of Queensland’s crime watchdog has accused police of having double standards and urged the service to rigorously investigate members accused of wrongdoing. Crime and Misconduct Commission chairman Martin Moynihan said some police shielded their own from scrutiny but he denied the problem was endemic

He stressed that the pre-Fitzgerald era of widespread police corruption had not returned to Queensland but said vigilance was needed. The former Judge has provided a frank assessment at the anniversary of his first year in the Job and his comments are likely to further antagonise senior police.

"Community confidence ln the police has to start with the police cultivating it", Mr Moynihan said. Community confidence was undermined when complaints from the public were investlgated by officers belonging to the same police unit as the alleged offenders.

Asked if it was a perception or reality that there was one rule for police and one rule for others, Mr Moynihan said, "I think it's probably both". He said it was worth serious consideration to limit the time any police commissioner could serve. Commissioner Bob Atkinson has been in power for a decade. Many senior government positions have fixed terms. Asked whether Mr Atkinson was doing a good job, Mr Moynihan said, “I think he’s doing OK. I mean, he’s doing his job".

Mr Moynihan singled out “heroic”- young police who spoke out about the bad apples in the service. Constable Bree Sonter blew the whistle on then-Senior Constable Benjamin Price, 32, who shoved a hose down the throat of Timothy Steele, 24, at Airlie Beach ln 2008. Price is no longer in the service. Mr Moynihan said more police would come forward if they felt they would be supported by the system.

(Police Union president) Ian Leavers is always saying to me that honest police get tarred with the same brush so I keep saying to him if that's their concern if they step up when they see what's going on then they can contribute to that not happening, Mr Moynihan said

The QPS has moved to fix some procedural weaknesses but sources say it is the high-profile cases that polarise the organisation. At the heart of that analysis is the Palm Island saga sparked after Cameron Doomadgee, also known as Mulrunji, died in custody in 2004. The CMC took aim at four police who investigated Doomadgee's death and the two officers who conducted a review of the initial death in custody investigation. Last year when Mr Moynihan released the CMC's review of the matter he said the original investigatlon and review were seriously flawed. They were characterised by double standards and an unwillingness to publicly acknowledge failings on part of the police, he said.

Misconduct disciplinary action was recommended against the four original investigators and disciplinary action against the reviewers. Mr Atkinson appointed Deputy Commissioner Kathy Rynders to determine whether the six officers should face any disciplinary action. Recently, she found they should receive managerial guidance [only].

Before that decision was announced, The Sunday Mail asked why Mr Atkinson had appointed Ms Rynders, given the CMC had appealed against her findings in the past. The response, which is being put on the record for the first time, highlights the tension with the CMC and the frustration of Mr Atkinson - who ticked off on the statement. “If there were concems they (CMC) could have voiced them or assumed responsibility for the matter,” the statement said. “They have a range of formal avenues open to them if they are unhappy with the outcome of the disciplinary process.”

The CMC is now considering Ms Rynders’ findings and will announce its position in coming weeks.

Above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 20 Feb., 2011

Another thug Qld. cop abusing his police powers

A police officer who was demoted for misconduct after he injured his former police lover, when he handcuffed her during an off-duty argument, has lost an appeal.

Jane Moran, who was then a constable, ended up with a fracture to her right eye socket, facial bruises and abrasions and tenderness to her neck, arms and wrists.

In February last year, after a police disciplinary hearing found Mount Isa police prosecutor Mark McKenzie had inappropriately and forcibly detained Ms Moran, he was demoted from sergeant to senior constable for two years. He appealed against the decision.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told Sen. Constable McKenzie, a police officer for 18 years, would suffer a financial loss of almost $34,000, and it would take him six years to progress to the position of sergeant.

The incident involving Ms Moran occurred on March 1, 2008, at police accommodation in Mount Isa. The tribunal heard the couple argued and Sen. Constable McKenzie claimed he became concerned for his safety because there was a knife within reach of Ms Moran. He claimed he restrained Ms Moran, using reasonable force, to defend himself, the tribunal heard.

She denied any knowledge of the knife, but admitted she got into a fight with Sen. Constable McKenzie. The hearing found that Sen. Constable McKenzie grabbed Ms Moran by the wrist, forced her face down on the bed with his knees in her back and handcuffed her.

After calling for police “back-up", which did not eventuate, Sen. Constable McKenzie escorted Ms Moran to the door and removed her handcuffs. The tribunal found Sen. Constable McKenzie’s demoiion was appropriate.

Above article by Kay Dibben appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 20 Feb., 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

S. Aust. Police charged over private data leaks

Two serving police and a former officer have been arrested and charged in a corruption probe. The secret Anti-Corruption Branch operation also has resulted in the arrest of a commercial agent who was allegedly using confidential information obtained from police files to locate members of the public - in many cases to repossess their cars and recover debts.

The operation has been under way since last June, with several detectives seconded to ACB from Local Service Areas because of its scope.

Senior police have refused to comment on the operation but sources said the racket was the largest uncovered since three detectives were charged after they were caught selling information from police computers to high-profile private investigator Frank Carbone in 1995. "The extent of this activity has raised more than a few eyebrows internally," the source said. "While this group appears to have been fairly contained, its extent is still a concern in the current political climate."

It is understood while all of those involved in the alleged corrupt activity with the commercial agent have been detected, a number of "offshoot" investigations have begun as a result of evidence gathered from several sources during the operation and further arrests are possible.

Police moved against the alleged ringleader in the racket last July when Port Pirie police officer David Barry Hawkins was suspended from duty. He resigned from SAPOL in late October and on December 9 was arrested and charged with 79 corruption-related offences. He is facing 42 counts of abuse of public office and 37 counts of unlawful operation of restricted-access computer systems. The charges relate to his alleged illegal activities between February 1, 2008 and December 3, 2009.

Hawkins, 37, appeared in Adelaide Magistrates Court on Wednesday and was remanded to appear again in May.

On December 20, detectives arrested commercial agent Heath Lee Boyle. He has been charged with 44 counts of aid and abet abuse of public office. He appeared in Adelaide Magistrates Court on January 28 and was remanded on continuing bail to appear again in May. Court documents state Boyle, 33, "aided, abetted, counselled or procured David Barry Hawkins to commit an offence, namely abuse of public office" between February 1, 2008 and December 3, 2009.

Following those two arrests detectives continued investigations, which included intensive analysis of several computers seized during the operation, and on January 19 detectives arrested and charged a 39-year-old police officer from the northern suburbs. The traffic patrol officer faces one count of abuse of public office.

On January 25 detectives charged a 46-year-old police officer from the eastern suburbs with 44 counts of abuse of public office. The detective was on secondment to the Australian Federal Police but his contract has now been terminated.

Both officers have been suspended from duty and will appear in Adelaide Magistrates Court on March 2.


Rowe case shakes public trust in police

Bruce Rowe is one of those blokes authority hates. He has a simple sense of justice and when he digs in his heels he is immovable.

Rowe is the oldish fellow (65 at the time) who was seen on TV being manhandled by a bunch of cops in the heart of Brisbane's Queen Street Mall back in July 2006.

He was arrested, charged and convicted of obstructing police and failing to obey a police order after an incident that began in the public toilets and ended with him being held down by four officers and kneed by another.

Rowe was last seen on TV last week savouring a moment of triumph after Constable Benjamin Arndt was found guilty of assaulting him and fined $1000 and ordered to pay him $2250 court costs.

That was the result of a private prosecution by Rowe, not one launched by the established forces of law and order.

The case was one of the most unsavoury in Queensland's policing history and dragged through the Magistrates Court, the District Court, the Court of Appeal and back to the Magistrates Court.

The first court convicted Rowe, the second confirmed it, the third overturned it and the fourth fined Arndt, although it did not record a conviction. Even the supporting magistrate and judge made known their displeasure with what they saw on video tape.

Rowe was not caught up in some kind of public toilet degeneracy. Depressed and homeless after his wife of 41 years died, he went in there to change his clothes. There was some argy bargy with the cleaner, who wanted to close up for cleanings, and the police were called. The rest is history.

You might think that after the best part of five years, all involved would be happy to put it all behind them. But, no, the Police Union wants a rematch. Spokesman Ian Leavers said it would back an appeal against Arndt's conviction which had "dire consequences for all police officers doing their jobs".

"I am very, very concerned now that police officers across the state will be reluctant to do their job and the community will suffer," he said.

Any officers who think the right of assault is issued with their batons and handcuffs might be reluctant to do their jobs but I can't see what difference it will make to the majority who follow a tough calling with courage and dignity.

"It simply doesn't make sense at all because a District Court has found the force used was reasonable," he said.

Judge Nicholas Samios did find that but he also found the arrest was lawful. Whether he would have found it reasonable had he found the arrest unlawful is another thing.

In the Court of Appeal, Judge Cate Holmes noted that Rowe wanted to argue three grounds of appeal, including on the grounds that "the arrest was unlawful or, alternatively, because Mr Rowe's actions were a response to unlawful force used in effecting it".

It never came to that because the court found other reasons to rule the arrest was unlawful. In the circumstances, it might be a pity it was not resolved by the higher court. And whether the degree of force was reasonable and has much to do with the fact of assault is another matter.

Arndt is entitled to seek to clear his name and the Police Union is entitled (possibly obliged) to support him in his actions.

However, whatever the outcome, this was a shameful incident that should never have happened. It was badly handled during and after the event and has dragged on too long, to the detriment of just about anyone involved and at a cost to trust in our police service.

The courts will do their job, but I think public opinion has reached a verdict.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

A protection racket run by NSW law enforcement

Is anyone surprised?

The state's most secretive law enforcement agency has been sharing the proceeds of crime with organised crime figures, cutting deals that allow them to walk away with millions of dollars.

The NSW Crime Commission, set up to investigate and jail Sydney's crime lords, has struck as many as 600 such deals during the past 20 years, in effect, handing over millions of dollars' worth of assets that might have been illegally obtained.

The funds taken by the commission are put in a Treasury account and disbursed to crime prevention and drug rehabilitation programs.

But instead of litigating in open court to confiscate all proceeds of crime, the agency has settled most cases by consent for a lesser amount and often before a defendant appears on a criminal charge.

For senior figures in the underworld, it has become a cost of doing business. The Herald has confirmed that in one recent case, someone with criminal associations approached the commission to pay a financial settlement - before he was even called in to give evidence.

The Herald has also learnt that such deals, struck under proceeds of crime laws, have not always been inspected by a Supreme Court judge as envisaged by the legislation but merely stamped by a court official.

A defence lawyer, Dennis Miralis, said there was a "prevailing view" within the criminal world that by reaching a secret deal with the commission, it was possible to avoid further police scrutiny. "They believe that by settling with the crime commission on a non-admission basis, they will remove the commission from investigating their affairs any further," he said.

"One advantage of settlement is that individuals can effectively have funds returned to them that are now 'clean' and have been sponsored and endorsed as such by the state."

While the value of the assets the agency confiscates has grown by more than 1300 per cent since 1990 - generating almost $250 million over that period - the number of people it has arrested has plateaued, falling last year to fewer than the number in 1993.

A former commission investigator and now police academic, Michael Kennedy, said: "It is philosophically unsound what they do. They are licensing organised crime because they are fining it. The Crime Commission is involved in business transactions."

The agency - which taps phones, can compel witnesses to answer questions and maintains an army of criminal informants - has operated for two decades with less oversight than even the domestic spy agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation. The Herald also understands several prominent organised criminals have been able to avoid greater police scrutiny, a bigger confiscation bill or more severe legal penalties by becoming an informant. A 12-month investigation has discovered:

An "ends justify the means" culture exists at senior levels. It manifests itself in inadequate record keeping, the routine relaxation of policies governing the handling of informants and inaccurately reporting its financial achievements.

A murder investigation into a prominent Lebanese mafia figure was thrown into disarray, NSW police say, after the commission warned his lawyer that one of the criminal's most-trusted friends had rolled over.

An entrenched distrust of the agency among senior members of the Australian Crime Commission, the federal police and the NSW Police, over disputes about the management of complex investigations.

Since 1993, the commission has been run by Phillip Bradley, who is respected in government circles as a hard-working anti-crime crusader. And despite its problems, his organisation is one of Australia's most effective criminal intelligence agencies.

Its supporters say confiscating criminal proceeds is the only way to put pressure on well-organised criminals with experience of police methods - and the Supreme Court has encouraged such settlements because of the heavy caseload in the courts.

But critics say such deals do not make a dent in the amount of drugs sold in Sydney and, as they are struck in private, do little to deter crime.

The commission's oversight body, a management committee that consists of Mr Bradley, the police minister and the heads of NSW Police and the federal police, has not always been able to scrutinise properly the organisation or the financial settlements it has struck.

Another former commission officer, Peter Robinson, said it was compromised because it was trying to juggle competing priorities - the confiscation of assets and the investigation of organised crime.

"The concept of taxing organised crime, or skimming off the top, and leaving crime figures to keep the rest of their spoils sounds like a protection racket. If the commission is doing that, it is encouraging crime and fostering a culture where organised crime can flourish."


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Victoria's finest, again

Victoria's police force 'exposed children to risk' from sex offenders, report finds. Why is child protection such a joke in so many jurisdictions?

FAILURE by Victoria Police to pass on information about registered sex offenders has left more than 700 children exposed to "unacceptable risk", the state's ombudsman has found.

In a damning report delivered to Victoria's parliament today, Ombudsman George Brouwer has slammed the police's “inadequate commitment” to the sex offenders register as part of a systemic breakdown in how the state manages known sex offenders.

Between October 2004, when the sex offenders register began, until March 2010, 899 registered sex offenders reported to Victoria Police that they had contact with at least one child. But as The Australian revealed in August, information regarding 376 of those offenders was never passed on by police to the Department of Human Services. Those 376 offenders have reported contact with over 700 children.

“The exact number of children with whom these offenders may have had contact is difficult to ascertain,” Mr Brouwer wrote in his report. “In some instances, offenders were found to have been in contact with a greater number of children than he or she had initially disclosed to Victoria Police. “As investigations conclude, it is likely that this number will increase.”

Mr Brouwer found the police failure to report the information to the department “has left children exposed to unacceptable risk”.

He also attacked Corrections Victoria for seeking permission from the registered sex offenders before releasing information about them, saying the agency “opted to place the rights of registered sex offenders over the rights of vulnerable children that may be at risk of harm”.