Friday, January 24, 2014

Sydney woman gets $243,000 for leg broken by NSW cops

A Sydney arts student has won more than $243,000 in damages after a scuffle with police ended with her leg broken.

Rachel Gardner sued the state of NSW, claiming she was attacked by NSW Police officers after being caught without a train ticket at Cronulla Railway Station in Sydney's south on March 13, 2011.

Ms Gardner claimed Sergeant Craig Sands kicked both her legs out from under her, breaking her right leg.

The 36-year-old also claimed police directed a transit officer to sit on her as she lay on the ground.

Police then loaded her into a paddy wagon and dumped her at another train station in the Sutherland area.

She had sought damages of up to $750,000 for the injuries, humiliation, anxiety and loss of social status.

In a judgment delivered on Friday, Judge Sharron Norton ordered the state of NSW pay the student $243,591 in damages, plus interest.

Outside court, Ms Gardner's solicitor Penelope Purcell said her client was very pleased with the result.

"She feels vindicated by the judgment," she said.

Asked whether she was looking forward to returning to studies, Ms Gardner replied "absolutely".

During a court hearing last year, the Crown argued Ms Gardner's level of intoxication, as perceived by Sgt Sands, should be considered.

However, Ms Gardner's lawyer claimed the police officer's actions were intentional and intended to cause injury.

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.

Monday, January 20, 2014

One in every 40 serving police officers in NSW has committed an offence

THERE are 437 serving police officers with criminal convictions, that is one in every 40 officers.  It is an incredible increase of 230 per cent over the past five years.

Among the ranks is an inspector convicted of assaulting an off-duty ­officer and drink-driving while other offences include bashing, drink-driving, fraud, illegal use of guns and other driving offences.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the 437 officers have 591 convictions against them. That is 256 per cent more than 2008 when, according to freedom of information figures, there were 166 offences between 133 serving officers.

Among them are 14 inspectors, five senior sergeants, 80 sergeants, 236 ­senior constables, 20 probationary ­constables and 13 student officers.

Policing expert Michael Kennedy said the reason for the increase was probably due to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione taking a tough line and a culture of police reporting and prosecuting their own.

"On face value these figures appear to be negative for the police but on the other side, Scipione does not interfere," Dr Kennedy said.

Dr Kennedy, a former detective and lecturer in policing at the University of Western Sydney, said some police chiefs in parts of Australia had been known for "having a word" with officers facing the criminal courts so they could resign quietly.  "But Scipione does not do that. If they are charged, he lets the system deal with them," he said.

Former assistant commissioner Clive Small said: "An increase of over 200 per cent over five years is a worrying trend that the police and the ­government need to keep an eye on."

In cases still in the courts, a female officer has been charged with stalking, intimidating and bugging, a male officer has been accused of setting up a bathroom spy camera to secretly film people and theft, lying and corruption.

Mr Scipione said he had no tolerance for officers who broke the law and committed serious offences.  "If an officer's offence causes me to lose my confidence in them, I will sack them. They will not be part of this police force," he said.

However he said less serious ­offences should not warrant the end of a career but often the workplace penalties were worse than court penalties with officers demoted.

"Yes, there are officers still in this ­organisation who we have charged and who have recorded a conviction," Mr Scipione said.

"In the majority of cases, these officers will have been convicted of a low range PCA or similar offence. While I am not happy about that, I don't believe that warrants the end of a ... career."

Since he took over as commissioner in 2007, Mr Scipione has sacked 87 officers under section 181D of the Police Act, which states the commissioner has lost confidence in them.  Those are officers who have not been reinstated by the Industrial ­Relations Commission.

Senior police are known to be frustrated with the IRC which has forced them to reinstate an estimated half of all sacked officers after appeals.

The IRC has made it clear in their decisions that even a high-range PCA or similar offence could never be grounds for dismissal.

Former sergeant Andrew Lawrance, who the commissioner tried to sack in 2010 because he used his penis piercing to open beer bottles, was reinstated by the IRC.

Mr Scipione was warned about criticising the commission in 2009 by Justice Frank Marks, who considered contempt of court proceedings against the commissioner