Thursday, February 28, 2013

Court awards almost $130,000 to man punched by Victoria cop

A BONSAI gardener who was punched in the head by an officer after being arrested has been awarded almost $130,000 from Victoria Police.

Tim Vivoda, 42, launched civil action against Victoria Police after he was punched by Leading Sen-Constable David Kealy as he was being processed to go into Ringwood station's cells in 2008.

Today he was awarded $129,304.50 after a court ruled the “insulting” attack had violated Mr Vivoda’s rights and breached the public’s trust of the police force.

Mr Vivoda had been arrested for being drunk in a public place and claimed he was punched after trying to escape custody to seek medical attention.

During the County Court civil trial, Sen-Constable Kealy, an officer with 17 years' experience, said he punched Mr Vivoda as hard as he could because he feared he had tried to grab his police firearm.

Sen-Constable Kealy said it hadn’t occurred to him that he had already checked the weapon in and instinct had kicked in, in line with Victoria Police training.

Surveillance footage of the incident played in court showed the moment Sen-Constable Kealy stepped back and landed the blow on Mr Vivoda's left cheek, as several other officers looked on.

Delivering his judgment today, County Court judge Chris O’Neill had reservations about the credibility of evidence given by both Sen-Constable Kealy and Mr Vivoda, saying at time it beggared belief.

He rejected claims by Sen-Constable Kealy that he had not discussed the incident with other officers after the event.  “That evidence beggars belief,” he said.

“The incident was dramatic, both in terms of the lunge by Mr Vivoda and even more so, the punch by Mr Kealy.

“To sugest that it was not the subject of any discussion subsequently, particularly with his (police) partner, is incomprehensible.”

Judge O’Neill also rejected claims Sen-Constable Kealy had acted in self defence, believing that Mr Vivoda had lunged at his gun.

“I am satisfied Mr Kealy did not have an honest belief, upon reasonable grounds, that Mr Vivoda was attempting to grab his pistol.

“While Mr Kealy had little time to consider and react, his actions were out of proportion to the threat, and constituted a breach of the trust the public places in the police force.

“The manner in which Mr Vivoda was treated in the custody area of the police station in the aftermath of the punch does, and the force by which the blow was delivered, in my view, constitute conduct of an insulting nature and in contumelious disregard of Mr Vivoda’s rights,” he said.

Mr Vivoda claimed he had been left with thousands of dollars in medical bills, had developed suicidal tendencies, and had been left with permanent injuries.

An application made by lawyers for Mr Vivoda for interest and costs will be heard next month.

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.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

'I was capsicum sprayed and fined after going to woman's rescue'

He's lucky he didn't get shot.  The Vic cops are good at that.  Their tiny egos need a lot of propping up

A GOOD Samaritan who rushed to the aid of a woman "having her lights punched out" was gobsmacked to get a $553 fine from police in the post.

Aaryn Hayes, 25, was with friends in Brunswick St, Fitzroy, on Sunday morning when he saw a man grab a woman by the throat and throw her to the ground.

Mr Hayes grabbed the man towering over her and pinned him against a wall.  Seconds later, police arrived and doused both men with capsicum spray.

"The guy was punching the hell out of this lady," Mr Hayes said.  "I didn't punch him or hurt him. I simply grabbed him and moved him away from her to stop the violence.

"She was having her lights punched out - he was getting really stuck in - and people were just walking past. I had to help," he said.

Mr Hayes said while one police officer dealt with "the yelling and screaming offender", he explained to the other what had happened, and they helped him clear the spray from his eyes.

"Then the other officer came over and said I was disturbing the peace and acting in a riotous way.

"I was bewildered. I was just trying to stop a woman being beaten to a pulp and police were saying I was in the wrong for helping.

"I was with seven friends and my girlfriend, who were all witnesses. But when they spoke to the officer he threatened to arrest me and take me back to the station.

"Meanwhile the guy who attacked the woman was let go because the woman didn't want to press charges."

Mr Hayes said his shock was compounded on Tuesday when he received in the post a $600 penalty notice for "riotous behaviour".  "I feel like a criminal for trying to help police," he said.

"I keep thinking, 'What if it was my girlfriend or mum who was being attacked, and no one helped?'.  "It's not in my personality to walk by, but the fine has made me think twice."

Mr Hayes said he was seeking legal advice and would contest the penalty in court.

A Victoria Police spokesman, Belle Nolan, said: "It's believed a man in his 20s intervened in a verbal dispute between a man and a woman. It's alleged the man assaulted the victim, aged in his 50s, and refused to comply with police instructions to stop.

"He was sprayed with capsicum spray and received an infringement notice for riotous behaviour."

Officer admits lying about prisoner assault to Police Integrity Commission

One of the NSW north coast policemen who claimed that an Aboriginal man punched a senior constable in the face has admitted to the Police Integrity Commission that the assault never took place, and that in fact he delivered a "knee strike" to the Aboriginal man while he was pinned to the ground.

And the commission was then played a recorded telephone conversation in which the constable referred to a group of Aboriginal people as "a car full of coons".

The revelations came during an explosive fourth day of the Police Integrity Commission inquiry into allegations that Corey Barker, 24, was assaulted at Ballina police station on January 14, 2011, after an altercation with police, and that officers then falsely accused the young man of assaulting them.

Under questioning from counsel assisting the commission, Stephen Rushton, SC, Constable Luke Mewings conceded that Mr Barker had never struck his fellow officer, Senior Constable David Hill.

"You accept that, in fact, Corey Barker did not assault officer Hill?" Mr Rushton said.  "Yes, I agree with that now."

Constable Mewing then conceded that, despite the fact that the young Aboriginal man had not attacked any officer, they then proceeded to slam him into a wall, and then force him to the ground where one officer "stomped" on him, and then dragged him by his handcuffed arms into a cell.

"Dragging this man by his arms while they were still handcuffed would have been extremely painful wouldn't it?" Mr Rushton asked.

"Yes, I guess so," Constable Mewing replied.

The Constable then conceded that he falsely claimed in his formal police statement, and then in Ballina local court, that Mr Barker had assaulted his colleague.

He also said that parts of his statement were copied from the statement of Senior Constable Hill, after at least three of the police involved had "shared" their statements to "refresh our memories".

The Commission heard that the statements of Senior Constable Hill, Constable Lee Walmsley and Constable Mewing contained a number of sections which were "precisely identical", right down to the punctuation used.

This included the claim that, in response to a direction to turn around so he could be handcuffed, Corey Barker had said: "Get f----- you c---. I'm gun a punch you in the f------ head when I get the chance."

Constable Mewing said that the copying of other officer's statements had happened before within his Local Area Command , and that this was done to "refresh your memory".

When asked why he had both falsely claimed that Constable Hill had been assaulted in the local court, and concealed the fact that part of his evidence was copied from another officer, Constable Mewing said he had been "going through a very stressful time...other things in my life".

The hearing continues.

Ballina cop admits 'wrong' evidence

A POLICE officer who allegedly beat and falsely accused an Aboriginal man has admitted he twice gave wrong evidence about the incident.

Constable Luke Mewing is the first of six officers to give evidence to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) in Sydney about the arrest and prosecution of 24-year-old Corey Barker.

The PIC heard on Thursday that Const Mewing made a written statement about the arrest of Mr Barker, who had attempted to intervene during a violent street confrontation between police and two of his friends at Ballina, on the NSW north coast, in January 2011.

During Mr Barker's prosecution, Cnst Mewing gave evidence that Mr Barker yelled obscenities, threatened violence and refused to comply with directions from officers while in custody in Ballina police station.

Const Mewing said he, Sen Const David Hill and three other officers approached a perspex holding cage and told Mr Barker to turn around and put his hands behind his head so he could be handcuffed and walked to a cell at the rear of the station.

He was subsequently shown CCTV evidence of the incident at the PIC last year which showed Mr Barker did turn around twice in the cage.

On Thursday, Cnst Mewing admitted his evidence on both previous occasions was incorrect.

"What you told the magistrate was wrong," counsel assisting the PIC Stephen Rushton, SC, asked.

"It's possible," Cnst Mewing replied.  "It's not possible, it's a fact," Mr Rushton said.  "It appears that way," Cnst Mewing said.

The PIC has heard that the CCTV inside the station was originally thought to be damaged but was later repaired.

As the officers walked Mr Barker to the cells he was thrown against the wall and wrestled to the ground before he was kicked in the head and kneed in the side.

A total of six officers said Mr Barker had triggered the fracas by punching Snr Cnst Hill.

Mr Barker was charged with various offences from attempting to intervening at the street incident and assaulting police.

All the charges against Mr Barker were eventually dropped and magistrate David Heilpern said the officers' evidence had conflicted with the CCTV footage.

He also described Snr Const Hill as a liar.

The hearing continues.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Video footage shows NSW police accused of attacking youth

ON THE same night that an Aboriginal youth was allegedly bashed and then falsely accused of assault by a group of police in northern NSW, his female friend was allegedly slammed into a gutter during a violent arrest, the Police Integrity Commission has heard.

The commission is investigating allegations that Corey Barker, 24, was assaulted at Ballina police station on January 14, 2011, after an altercation with police, and that officers then falsely accused the young man of assaulting them, giving sworn testimony to this effect in court.

The incident was caught on the police station's CCTV cameras.

On Monday, the commission heard that Mr Barker had initially confronted police after seeing them arresting two of his friends in an allegedly violent manner.

One of Mr Barker's friends, Emma Crook, told the commission that she had been "thrown around" by police and a series of pictures were tendered showing multiple cuts and grazes to her arms, legs, back and ear.

"They tackled me onto the ground and sprayed me in the eyes [with capsicum spray]. I had a lot of scratches and grazes - I couldn't see," Ms Crook said.

But four other witnesses, including at least one who was sober at the time, said they saw her picked up and slammed into the gutter. "They had her restrained on the ground then I saw her lifted up to about chest height and then just dropped her on the ground - a straight dead-drop," Byron Nolan said. "I heard her head slap into the concrete."

After seeing this allegedly violent treatment of their friend, Mr Nolan and Mr Barker ran over and tried to intervene.

"Next thing we were on the ground and they were restraining us … one of them had his foot on the back of my head and was kind of rolling it - it was really uncomfortable," Mr Nolan said.

"I heard one of them shouting, 'let the black guy go, let the black guy go'. I guess [They were talking about me], I'm a bit darker than Corey is."

The commission heard that, rather than being let go, Mr Barker was taken back to Ballina police station with Ms Crook and her boyfriend, Jay Healey.

Ms Crook gave evidence about a number of apparent breaches of police protocol while she was detained, including that a number of documents falsely stated that she had refused to answer questions about her health, possessions and next of kin. Ms Crook said that while detained she had seen Mr Barker being assaulted.

"I heard a big bang and opened the door and Corey was on the ground. Four officers were holding him down and blood was coming from his head. I shut the door quickly … I was scared. I wasn't sure what was going to happen."

The inquiry continues, with Mr Barker and the police involved to give evidence.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Don't rely on the police for anything

Even a real bad egg is of no interest to them

Police handling of a violent criminal who repeatedly breached parole was grossly negligent, a coroner said.

The man went on a destructive rampage in July 2009, which ended when he shot himself during a siege.

Shane Andrew Robinson, 32, stabbed a police officer on the Barrier Highway in South Australia and stole the officer's car.

He had been pulled over for questioning about suspected criminal activity.

Robinson ran over a pedestrian with the police car, then went to a homestead near Yunta and held a 75-year-old woman hostage.

She was bound and assaulted during the siege, before Robinson shot himself.

Coroner Mark Johns said Robinson's violent actions could have been prevented had police done their job properly and pursued him when he started behaving erratically weeks earlier.

Parole Board executive officer Kevin Hill told the inquest the Correctional Services Department failed to immediately tell the board about a serious breach a month earlier, when Robinson tried to strangle his girlfriend and failed to report to his Corrections officer.

The inquest heard police were alerted, but follow-up of the domestic violence report was inadequate and no attempt was made to identify the parolee involved.

The coroner was told Robinson was not adequately monitored because a Corrections staffer was on leave.

"This is an unsatisfactory situation and has resulted in significant changes within Community Corrections since and because of Mr Robinson's death," Mr Johns said in his findings.

Robinson's mother Jacqui attended the inquest and publicly apologised for her son's horrific crimes.

She said she felt the system let her son down.

"I would like to apologise to the victims of this terrible crime, leading to my son's death. I feel that the system has let my son down, let my family down and let the victims and the police and the community down," she said.

The inquest heard Robinson failed to complete anger management, alcohol abuse and domestic violence courses recommended by his parole officer.

He failed to make appointments with a psychologist, despite counselling being a release condition.

In 2002, Robinson took hostage a teenage boy at a house at suburban Netley, threatened him with an axe and held a knife to the boy's throat.

Robinson was shot in the neck by a STAR Force officer during that siege.

He spent time in hospital, then was sentenced to six years in jail with a non-parole period of four years.

The offender was released on parole in December 2007.

The Coroner concluded there was gross negligence by authorities involved in Robinson's management, particularly SA Police.

"There were opportunities to intervene in the management of Mr Robinson in a way that might have prevented the events culminating in his death, thus saving not only his life but the serious sexual assault of an elderly lady and the serious stabbing wounding of a member of the police force," Mr Johns said.

He said Robinson should never have been allowed to live with his partner and her teenage daughters, given his convictions for serious child sex offences.

Mr Johns also was highly critical of the SA Police call centre's handling of the report Robinson had attacked his partner.

"In my opinion call centre operators and their supervisors must be provided with domestic violence training, which instructs them on how and when to deal with allegations of domestic violence and emphasises that, where it is not known that the victim is actually safe and that cannot be ascertained adequately on the telephone, a police patrol should attend," he said.

"The failure by anyone at the SAPOL call centre to bother to inquire as the identity of the perpetrator of the domestic violence allegation is profoundly disturbing.

"It shows a lack of interest and commitment to the job of policing and keeping South Australians safe. It shows a narrow focus on the immediate task and a desire merely to get rid of a problem with a minimum of effort."


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Federal police officer faces court on child indecency charge

A sworn Australian Federal Police officer has been charged with committing an act of indecency against a 12-year-old boy.

The 38-year-old Amaroo man appeared before the ACT Magistrates Court on Saturday morning. He was arrested by members of ACT Policing’s Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Team on Friday night.

Detective senior constable Brad Tulk told the court that the alleged act of indecency occurred between June 1 and December 24, 2012, with a child the accused man supervised as part of a loose ‘‘caring relationship.’’

He said the man also had a seven-year-old foster child. ‘‘If the defendant was given access to that child he may re-offend,’’ Constable Tulk said.

Constable Tulk said his fear of further offences would be allayed if the man stayed away from children under the age of 18.

Magistrate David Mossop granted the accused man bail with strict conditions. He is not to be alone with any child under the age of 18 or contact the alleged victim or his family.

Constable Tulk told the court police were also investigating the man's involvement with three other children.

‘‘Police are yet to identify and locate the other three children,’’ he said.

Constable Tulk told the court the alleged victim's mother made a statement to police that the man ‘‘removed [his] foster son's clothing before sitting on top of him and hitting him on the chest.’’

The court was told the man’s foster child would be removed from his care in light of the allegations.

The man will appear before the ACT Magistrates court on March 4.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Australia: CCC probe of police in Stacey Thorne murder case

WESTERN Australia's corruption watchdog is to investigate allegations of police misconduct during the prosecution of a man for the murder of a pregnant woman.

Stacey Thorne, 35, was 22 weeks pregnant when she was repeatedly stabbed in the chest at her home in Boddington, about 120km southeast of Perth, in late 2007.

She knocked desperately on several neighbours' doors after the attack but died before paramedics arrived.

Scott Douglas Austic, who had been in a secret relationship with Ms Thorne for a year before her death, was convicted of her murder in 2009 and sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison.

He has always maintained his innocence, and launched an unsuccessful appeal against the conviction in 2010.

However, today the Corruption and Crime Commission said it was now investigating allegations of misconduct by WA Police relating to the collection and handling of evidence used in the case.

"The commission cannot give an indication at this stage of how long its investigation will take," a statement from the CCC said.

The prosecution in the 2007 trial alleged Austic was having a secret sexual relationship with Ms Thorne, who then became pregnant.

It was alleged Austic attempted to persuade Ms Thorne to have an abortion, sending text messages begging and pleading with her not to have the baby.

On the night of Ms Thorne's death, Austic was said to be so drunk he was refused service at the local Boddington hotel, and after having sex with Ms Thorne, allegedly returned on foot to her home some time later and stabbed her 21 times with a folding knife.

He then allegedly walked home, leaving Ms Thorne to die, before burning his clothes in a wood-fire heater and washing his thongs in an attempt to hide evidence.

In sentencing, Justice Peter Blaxell said the attack was "savage and determined".

"Some of the stab wounds were inflicted after she had fallen on to the floor," Justice Blaxell said.  "You also left Ms Thorne to bleed to death in her bedroom and she did not immediately die.

"In that regard it is dreadful to contemplate the agony she must have suffered during her last 20 to 30 minutes while staggering out her unit and down the street for help."

Despite the failed appeal, allegations that evidence may have been planted, withheld and misrepresented during the trial were raised late last year with WA Attorney-General Michael Mischin, after a review by forensic experts Clint Hampson and Robin Napper.

The petition was based on a review of the evidence, which included a cigarette packet with a stain of Ms Thorne's blood found on a table in Austic's back yard.

It was claimed the packet was not on the table when police photographed it on December 13, but then appeared in a photo taken more than 30 hours later.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Members slam union's support of rogue cop

A ROGUE cop's union paid his legal bills on charges of assaulting his wife, escaping custody and trying to pervert the course of justice.

Questions have been raised about why the officer's defence was funded when the matters appeared to have no clear connection with his work.

He broke his wife's finger in an attack at their home, breached an intervention order, injured a colleague in the escape and then tried to lie to cover it up.

The member pleaded guilty to the charges in the Melbourne County Court last November.

He had been charged with more than 20 offences including stalking, breaching an intervention order and assaulting police.

That number was reduced to four by the time the matter came to court.

The charge of assaulting his wife related to an incident at the family home in 2006.

But it was not until the next year that he became a policeman.

His wife took out an intervention order in 2010 but the husband allegedly breached it when a colleague found him parked near his wife's home.

The intervention order had stipulated he not contact, approach, threaten or assault his wife or children

The officer tried to make an arrest but his finger was broken as they grappled and the husband fled.

The court heard the defendant had then told his brother to put on his clothes and sent him to a police station to say it was he who had been near the home.

Police Association secretary Greg Davies said the member's defence had been funded until he decided to plead guilty.

At that point, in line with association policy, support was withdrawn.

Sen-Sgt Davies said members were acquitted in 85 per cent of cases where their defence was funded by the union.

One police officer, who did not want to be named, said members' money should not have funded the defence.

"I'm not sure what any of this had to do with his work," the officer said.

The officer was handed a 28-month jail sentence, 27 months of which was suspended. He was released because the other month had been served on remand.

Man sues four police officers after tussle over mobile phone footage

A MAN who filmed police arresting a stranger and refused to hand over his mobile phone footage is suing four officers for $1.25 million for breaking his arm and false arrest.

Lee Hobbs claims in Supreme Court documents his problems began after he used his phone to film several police arresting another man in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley two years ago.

Mr Hobbs, who was charged after refusing to give police his phone, claims in the court documents three officers held him face-down on the floor of the Valley Police Beat, while one wrenched his arm, fracturing it.

Two charges of obstructing police and an assaulting police charge were withdrawn when the case went to court three months later.

Mr Hobbs, 33, later made a complaint to police about Constable Daniel Corliss, who he alleges broke his arm, his court claim says.

His claim says he was the victim of unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, assault by police using excessive force and false imprisonment. Mr Hobbs developed a psychiatric condition and was dismissed from his job of five years last year as a result, the court claim said.

Mr Hobbs's claim, filed by law firm Maurice Blackburn, alleged the ``real purpose'' behind the confiscation of his phone was to check if there was evidence of excessive force used by police during the other man's arrest.
Mr Hobbs's claim said soon after he began filming the arrest, about 4am on October 10, 2010, Constable Corliss spoke to him, telling him he would charge him with obstructing police if he talked over him. Mr Hobbs claims Constable Corliss then told him he was allowed to seize his phone because it had evidence on it.
When Mr Hobbs refused the request he was told he was under arrest for obstructing police, the claim said.

It is alleged the arrest was ``unlawful'' because the officer did not follow requirements under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act. Mr Hobbs's claim is against the state and officers Daniel Corliss, Daniel Haddadi, Stuart McIntyre and Nathanial Truong, who are yet to file a defence.

A police spokesman said the matter was investigated by Ethical Standards Command and overviewed by the Crime and Misconduct Commission, who concurred there was insufficient evidence to substantiate Mr Hobbs's claims.