Sunday, October 31, 2021

Police officer Mark Follington jailed over assault of trannie in Liverpool pub

Bigotry against trannies highly likely to have been involved.  Cops do it hard in jail so big efforts will be made to get him off

A NSW police officer who violently assaulted a woman and then falsified evidence related to the event will spend at least 18 months behind bars.  

Senior Constable Mark Follington unlawfully arrested Anya Bradford at a pub in Liverpool in Sydney's west in May 2019 while he and another officer were checking IDs as part of an anti-drug crackdown.

Ms Bradford, who was sitting in the gaming room, declined to show her identification and attempted to leave the premises.

CCTV footage played in court showed Follington grabbing Ms Bradford's arm and slamming her head into an ATM, before following her into the lobby of a parole office and continuing to attack her.

Another officer, Constable Mark Brown, used a pepper spray and taser on her. 

Later that day, Follington lied in a police report, claiming that Ms Bradford had assaulted him. The CCTV footage contradicted his story.

He pleaded not guilty to two charges of common assault, one count of tampering with evidence with intent to mislead a judicial tribunal, acting with intent to pervert the course of justice and modifying restricted data, but was found guilty in May this year.

At the sentencing hearing at Sydney's Downing Centre on Wednesday, Magistrate Michael Crompton sentenced Follington to 30 months behind bars with a non-parole period of 18 months.

He said the crime of falsifying information "struck at the very heart of the criminal justice system" and warranted a sentence that would significantly deter others.

He described the assaults as "quite violent" and "in the mid-to-high range of objective seriousness for assault of that kind".

He said the crime was aggravated by Follington abusing his position of trust and authority and noted his not guilty pleas. "On the evidence before me there is no evidence of remorse," he said.

Ms Bradford was not present in court but In a victim impact statement said the assaults had left her mentally and emotionally scarred. "I spent a night in pain in a jail cell," the statement said, adding that she regularly experienced traumatic flashbacks and no longer trusted police.

His lawyer argued that Follington, who had been suspended from his role without pay, was likely to have a more arduous time behind bars than an ordinary citizen.

"Once a police officer goes into the four walls of any institution… history has shown that police officers, because of their position, are the subject of assaults, serious assaults", he said. 

Follington's legal team confirmed he will appeal against the verdict

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Family of Aboriginal woman shot dead by WA police officer speak out after acquittal

<i>Mentally ill people can be very troublesome, very dangerous to themselves and others

The family of a Geraldton woman shot dead by a Western Australian police officer has said there is “no equality” and “no justice” for Aboriginal people after the constable was acquitted of her murder on Friday.

“In terms of Aboriginal people, we don’t get no fairness, there’s no equality and this is evidence with what’s happened here,” Bernadette Clarke, the sister of the victim, known as JC for cultural reasons, said on the steps outside Perth’s district court.

The 29-year-old Yamatji woman JC was fatally shot by a WA police first-class constable in a suburban Geraldton street in 2019. The constable, the first police officer to be charged with murder in WA for nearly a century, and who is still a serving officer, cannot be named for legal reasons.

JC was shot and killed after police responded to a welfare call from JC’s sister, who had told them she was concerned JC was walking down a street holding a knife and pair of scissors.

JC had experienced significant mental health and drug problems and recently been released from prison.

The defence lawyer, Linda Black SC, told the court JC had ignored repeated requests to drop the knife from the officers at the scene.

The jury was shown CCTV footage, taken from a home about 65 metres away, of JC being shot while surrounded by police vehicles.

The director of public prosecutions, Amanda Forrester SC, argued the footage showed JC did not move towards the officers.

Black said her client had acted correctly by drawing his gun, rather than a Taser, when confronting a person armed with a knife.

She said the officer had never fired his gun while on duty and had less than a second to decide whether to pull the trigger given his proximity to JC.

“He was not some trigger-happy constable ... he was a brave and careful officer who took pride in his job,” Black said.

“[JC] was never, ever going to drop the weapons. She needed to be taken down; she was never going to surrender.”

After a three-week trial in the Perth district court, a jury deliberated for just over three hours on Friday before returning not guilty verdicts to both murder and manslaughter charges.

The acquitted officer – cleared of all criminal wrongdoing – remains a serving member of the WA police force, but was stood down after the shooting. A decision has not yet been made on his future.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Extraordinary story of how a mother and daughter spent months in jail for 'importing drugs' – but it was actually TEA

A mother and daughter got themselves into hot water when they were thrown in the  slammer for six months due to a botched police investigation which wrongfully determined they were smuggling drugs when in reality it was just ginger tea.

Connie Chong and her daughter Melanie Lim imported the exotic brew from China so they could sell it in Australia online, but in January two of their shipments were seized by Border Force agents at Sydney Airport.

The preliminary indicator tests on the cargo wrongfully found the presence of a rare banned stimulant was known as phenmetrazine, leading investigators to suspect the tea pushers were really major drug queens.

Heavily-armed police officers then raided their Greenacre home in southwest Sydney slapping cuffs on the pair and discovering more of the substance. The terrified women were then charged with the commercial supply of drugs, refused bail and told they could be facing life behind bars.

But in August more thorough laboratory testing uncovered the shocking realisation that Chong and Lim were completely innocent and that the original presumptive colour test indicators detected a false positive.

All charges against the women have now been dropped but police prosecutors are refusing to pay for their legal bills despite their obvious blunder.

Defence barrister Steve Boland said the case was one of the most extraordinary police 'stuff-ups' in modern memory which has caused tremendous trauma for the pair.

'It is a gross injustice,' defence lawyer Benjamin Goh told 7News outside court on Tuesday. 'Two innocent women that have served their time as a result of the police not doing the investigations properly. 'It is open to the Crown to say 'sorry'. We stuffed up and two women went to prison for our dodgy prosecution.'

The women are now taking legal action against the NSW Police who say the delay in receiving adequate test results was due to a lack of lab equipment.

Their case seeking damages will continue before the court next year.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Punchard gone at last: He got off lightly


A senior constable convicted of leaking personal information about a friend’s ex-wife and her new partner, including their address, after accessing a police database has resigned from the Queensland Police Service following years of legal battles.

Neil Glen Punchard, 55, had a suspended prison sentence reinstated in August, following a successful appeal by the QPS.

His resignation from the QPS was effective from September 17, according to official police documents viewed by the Courier Mail.

The road policing officer from the South Brisbane District was charged in December 2018 with nine counts of accessing the Queensland Police Records and Information Management Exchange computer program – known as QPrime – and leaking personal information about the woman, including her address, to her ex-husband over a one-year period from 2013.

The mother of three told the Courier Mail in 2019 that she had moved her family twice in three years – after first making sure the removalists were not being followed – after the officer passed her address along to her ex-husband, Punchard’s childhood friend.

Punchard pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court in 2019 to nine counts of using a restricted computer without consent, gaining the benefit of knowledge, in 2013 and 2014.

He received two-month jail sentence, wholly suspended for 18 months, with a conviction recorded, but remained a serving police officer, on full-pay “administrative duties” at the time but was later suspended on full pay.

A back-and-forth lengthy court process ensued, with Senior Constable Punchard first winning an appeal against the jail sentence in 2020 with District Court Judge Craig Chowdhury instead re-sentencing the officer to 140 hours of community service with no conviction recorded.

On August 13 this year, the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by the Commissioner of Police and set aside Judge Chowdhury’s orders.

The appeal court heard that Punchard had already completed the 140 hours of community service, but the appeal court judges said that fact “did not cause such an injustice” to the officer to be an impediment to their orders that would effectively reinstate the Magistrate’s sentence.

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll has been under pressure by both the victim and members of the community to sack Punchard and has previously said she would consider his suitability to remain employed by QPS after the appeal process was finalised.

An online petition calling for Punchard’s dismissal from the police service has reached 67,352 signatures to date.

The woman filed a breach of privacy case against the QPS in Brisbane’s Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) in 2018.

Her complaint about the privacy breach was passed around between the QPS, the Crime and Corruption Commission, Ethical Standards Command and politicians for years, before QPS “substantiated” the complaint.

The QPS always denied the agency was liable for breaching the woman’s privacy.

Access to QPrime was tightened by the QPS in 2016, with members of the public now even prevented from accessing their own files.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Victoria Police censored 'vital' media coverage of Melbourne protests

Victoria Police censored vital media coverage of Melbourne's protests by banning the live-streaming of aerial footage, according to Digital Editor Jack Houghton.

On Wednesday the Civil Aviation Safety Authority approved a Victoria Police ban of all helicopters bar their own flying over Melbourne CBD.

"A media blackout," Mr Houghton said. "A pathetic attempt by an over-zealous police force which lost control of its own city.

"You deserve to know what's happening in your city every moment of every day, and in my experience, police only ever want you to stop filming when they are worried about stuffing something up."

Friday, September 24, 2021

Victoria’s police commissioner comments on social media video of man being slammed to ground at Flinders Station

Victoria Police’s chief commissioner has commented on footage circulating of a heavy-handed arrest in Melbourne.

The 12-second clip emerged overnight on Wednesday and is believed to have been filmed during the day of protesting action across the city.

Footage shows a man talking to at least three police officers at Flinders Street Station.

Another officer then approaches the man from behind and appears to slam him into the ground.

The man appears to strike the ground face-first and the person who filmed the footage says he lost consciousness and was bleeding.

“This poor guy was calm, he was just talking to the police, you can see it in the video then he gets thrown to the ground,” the caption on the video said.

“You can see it in the video then he gets thrown to the ground. You can hear his face hit the tiles. He was unconscious, blood and urine everywhere.”

On Thursday morning, Police Commissioner Shane Patton spoke to 3AW and was asked about the video.

“We’ll investigate that. I don’t know what the full circumstances are,” Patton told the station.

“There’s always context to everything. We’ll investigate it with an open mind.”

Patton said he was not “jumping to any conclusions”.

Victoria Police said in a statement it was aware of the circulating vision.

“The exact circumstances around the incident are yet to be determined and are under investigation by both Transit Safety Division and Professional Standards Command.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Aboriginal man flees the police in unregistered car. Crashes and dies

His own worst enemy

Raymond Noel Thomas was driving to the shops to buy chocolate in the Melbourne suburb of Northcote in June 2017 when police in a patrol vehicle saw he was driving an unregistered car.

Officers decided the car "looked dodgy" and when it failed to stop they began a pursuit, which saw both vehicles reach speeds of more than 150km/h.

During the chase, Raymond Noel's vehicle veered to the wrong side of the road, sideswiped an oncoming car, hit a parked car and crashed.

Just over 20 seconds later, the 30-year-old Aboriginal man was dead.

Coroner John Olle's findings handed down on Monday quoted a statement by Auntie Debbie, Raymond Noel's mother.

"The loss of our son, there are no real words to say how heartbreaking, devastated and how heavy we carry grief."

During the inquest, the court heard evidence that the 30-year-old Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Wiradjuri man's first interaction with police was at the age of 10, when officers handcuffed him while he was playing with his cousins on a woodchip mound.

"I can just imagine the fear that Ray must have been experiencing that night, right up until the very end," his father Uncle Ray told the inquest.

Coroner Olle slammed the police pursuits policy that led to the deadly crash, saying the two officers involved, Sergeant John Sybenga and Senior Constable Deborah McFarlane, never considered how the pursuit might end.

"They did not consider whether their attempt to intercept had elevated an initial poor decision not to stop, into a scenario of extreme danger," he said.

The court had heard they were experienced officers who were both licensed to drive at unlimited speeds.

He found police should no longer be able to conduct pursuits for "minor traffic infringements" at speed and without emergency lights.

True blue Aussie bushman and rodeo champ, 75, is fined $100 for carrying a POCKET KNIFE on his belt - despite doing so every day since the age of 14

This is an absurd prosecution from every angle.  Section 2A of the Act  specifically provides that "A person may carry a knife on his or her belt for performing work in primary production."  The magistrate who convicted  him needs to brush up on the law

An elderly bushman who has carried a tiny pocket knife for more than 60 years was charged and forced to face court after possessing the item in public.

Wayne McLennan, 75, is a local legend in his hometown of Chinchilla, Queensland, where he the former rodeo champion is affectionately known as 'Cowboy'.

But last month, when heading home from the local pub, Mr McLennan was stopped and breathalysed by police, before being taken to the station after blowing slightly over the limit.

After producing a second test under the legal blood alcohol level, the policewoman informed him he would be getting charged for another crime. 

'While I was there she said 'but I am going to charge you for wearing a pocket knife in public'. I said "what? I didn't know you weren't allowed to wear one",' he told A Current Affair.

'I've been wearing one since I was 14 years old. She said "that's it, that's the law".' 

Mr McLennan said he has been going about his business on his farm and in town with the tiny knife in his pocket for decades.

The blade, which barely measures more than an inch, is used for common jobs around the property and is a necessary part of every farmer's toolbelt.   

'Well if I got to go and put a bale of hay out, I use it to cut the string and then open a bag of horse feed, use it to open the top,' he said.

Cowboy was out in Chinchilla last month having a few beers at the pub with friends before he got some takeaways and headed back to his car.

Police stopped him before he even got in the car and said they were going to breathalyse him, where he blew over the legal limit.

The 75-year-old blew under the legal limit on his second attempt, but police still didn't let him go.  

Cowboy was charged with Section 51 of Queensland's Weapon Act, which says a person mustn't possess a knife in a public place or school unless they have a reasonable excuse.

The farmer said he 'wouldn't have had one on me if I'd known I wasn't allowed to wear one' and was shocked at the decision of the policewoman.

Mr McLennan faced local court where a magistrate fined him $100 and allowed him to leave without conviction.

He says no one around town could believe his story.  'That's why people keep ringing me and talking to me about it, they didn't know whether it was true or false,' he said.

Other bushmen around town have supported the 75-year-old, saying it was common place to innocently carry a small pocketknife. 'Oh it's ridiculous, every second guy here that walks into the pub here on a Friday night, has a pocket knife on their belt,' fellow Chinchilla local Tom Latimore said.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Police hiring spree found to be discriminatory, 200 eligible men miss out

Police discriminated against men in a female-focused hiring spree that saw 200 men who should have been hired miss out on a job.

The bombshell finding is contained in a Crime and Corruption Commission report tabled in parliament today into a female recruitment strategy employed by the Queensland Police Service under then-Commissioner Ian Stewart between December 2015 to October 2018.

“The discriminatory practices saw different standards applied to female and male applicants, with females selected in preference to male applicants who had performed to a higher standard across entry assessments,” the corruption watchdog found.

“The investigation shows around 2000 male applicants were subject to discriminatory assessment practices which prevented them from progressing through the recruitment process over approximately an 18-month period from July 2016 to the end of 2017.

“If the various discriminatory practices had not been implemented, the CCC estimates approximately 200 more meritorious male applicants would have been successful in their attempt to join the QPS.”

The CCC found that while there was “insufficient evidence” to support criminal action, there was evidence that warranted disciplinary action.

“The CCC plans to take action in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) … against one or more of the (persons of interest) seeking a finding of corrupt conduct,” the report said.

The CCC alleges staff in the recruiting section were so intent on achieving the gender equity targets that they lowered standards and allowed female recruits to progress even though they had failed certain entry requirements.

“By late 2017, in order to achieve the target of 50 per cent female recruitment, some female applicants were approved for progression by methods including: 

* lowering the required standard for female applicants on cognitive assessment (including for female applicants who had already previously been told they did not meet the required standard), 

* allowing female applicants who had failed aspects of the physical assessment to progress and 

* allowing female applicants who had previously been assessed as not suitable on psychological grounds to progress.”

The Courier-Mail broke the news in January 2020 that an investigation was under way after allegations were made of “irregularities” within the recruitment process.

At the time, a QPS spokesman confirmed a review had taken place and an investigation had begun.

“As a result, allegations of irregularities associated with some past police recruiting processes were identified,” the spokesman said.

“These allegations are now subject to investigation by the Crime and Corruption Commission and QPS Ethical Standards Command

“In the meantime, the QPS has put mechanisms in place to ensure confidence in more recent and ongoing recruiting processes.”

A statement released by the Queensland Police Service said disciplinary action had been taken against three people and a fourth had since left the service.

“Two QPS employees and a Public Safety Business Agency employee have been suspended as part of an internal disciplinary process,” the statement said.

“Another person identified in the report has since left the QPS.”

Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the QPS accepted the CCC report and would implement all recommendations as a matter of priority.

“The QPS became aware of concerns around recruiting practices following a change of leadership at our executive level and the concerns were immediately reported to the CCC in November 2019,” Ms Carroll said.

“We have fully co-operated with the CCC investigation.

“The conduct alleged in this report is completely disappointing and can I reassure the public that this alleged behaviour does not meet the standards or expectation of our Queensland Police officers and dedicated staff.”

Ms Carroll said six women had been identified as having not met the minimum standards to enter the academy.

But she said all six graduated successfully having met all the required standards to become a police officer.

“While the CCC report identifies that this misconduct ceased in January 2018, I have asked Assistant Commissioner Charysse Pond to conduct a complete review of the QPS recruitment practices to strengthen transparency and to ensure this does not happen again,” Ms Carroll said.

“I am committed to independent, transparent and impartial entry testing for all prospective police recruits.

“When I was sworn in as Commissioner, I said that while it is important to be inclusive and diverse, we should always take the best possible applicants regardless of their gender or ethnicity.

“The public as well as our own police officers rightly expect no favours or preferential treatment for any applicant.”

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Gross police abuse of their powers

Police officers have been accused of deliberately intimating a lawyer on his way to court and scaring him so badly he fled through the Magistrate's exit. 

The solicitor had been on his way to represent an outlaw motorcycle gang member in a case against NSW Police Strike Force Raptor - the elite bikie-fighting unit. The lawyer was so shaken that the hearing was adjourned.

The abuse of power was detailed in the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission's report which was made public late on Friday.   

The lawyer, a principal in his own criminal law firm, first noticed a police car driving past his house at 6.30am on May 28, 2019 - the day he was due in court to represent the bikie against Strike Force Raptor, the report said.  

Being on good terms with local police in his country town, he waved - but they didn't wave back. 

At 7am he reversed out of his driveway onto the empty street and noticed police were following him.

They pulled him over less than 10 minutes away at a nearby Beaurepaires tyre shop, and identified themselves as being from Strike Force Raptor.

The Raptor officers asked for his drivers license - which he had forgotten. 

On his way home to get his ID, the Raptor officers stopped him again to conduct a 'roadworthiness check' on his vehicle.

They repeatedly pulled the front seatbelt before claiming it was not retracting.

They then opened the bonnet and told him they could see an oil leak, then defected him for oil leaks, seat belt defects and window tinting, forcing him to walk home in his socks and thongs.

Rattled, he took a taxi to work - but the police followed his taxi, checking it after he arrived at work with their flashing lights on, the report said.

At 8.30am, his client arrived, telling him the police were 'doing laps' outside his office. This worried the lawyer so much he took a back exit from his office to a solicitor friend who rang the regular police - but they said they could not do anything.

He was so shaken that when he appeared before the Magistrate to represent his client against Strike Force Raptor, she adjourned the matter.

When he left the courtroom, five to 10 Strike Force Raptor officers were waiting.

This intimidated the lawyer so much he fled the court by the Magistrate's private exit, with her permission.

He then told his client that he should not represent him anymore - and the client hired another lawyer, the report said. 

Integrity Commissioner Lea Drake found that a senior Strike Force Raptor officer had ordered two other officers to 'target, interact and harass' the lawyer so that he did not make it to court, and also intimidated his female friend.

The Commissioner found that the officers' conduct towards the lawyer was 'disgraceful', inventing breaches in order to target him.

'When misused, targeting can create a hostile relationship between the police and citizens who would otherwise have no animosity towards the police,' the Commissioner wrote.

'The Commission is concerned about the sense of entitlement that can develop in an elite strike force and was demonstrated by this conduct.

'Such limited strategies can become unrestrained and unlawful. If you are an elite, are you bound by the rule of law and the policies of the NSW Police Force or are you bigger, better, harder and more entitled? 

'The task of these officers is to enforce the law. If the unlawful conduct engaged in by these officers is allowed to continue and be condoned because of some imagined higher purpose, there can be no good to come from it for the people of New South Wales.'

The Commissioner wrote that while Strike Force Raptor had been successful in disrupting  criminal activity, it could not be allowed to harass people.

'However, unlawful conduct must not be condoned or covered up.' 

Greens MP David Shoebridge was beside himself on reading the report and slammed the conduct within it late on Friday, summing up the story in an outraged Twitter thread.

'Lawless,' he wrote. 

'This is seriously lawless behaviour by a number of police acting in concert and it’s close to unbelievable .... We (will) not leave it here I can assure you. Seriously unbelievable.'

A spokesman for NSW Police said the release of the report had been 'noted' and its contents and recommendations would be 'considered'.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Aboriginal distrust of the police

Aborigines have a lot of contact with the police because they commit a lot of crimes.  Those encounters often end up badly so there are calls for the police to "do something" about that. 

They seem to overlook that they have in their own hands an excellent way to improve their relationships with the police:  Stop committing crimes.  Their high rate of criminality -- particularly among young Aborigines -- is bound to create dislike of them among the police and that will show, one way or another

"They don't like me, and I don't like them".

In one simple sentence, a young man laid bare his experience of the often fraught relationship between Indigenous children and police.

His words weren't said in a casual conversation on the street but in a courtroom — and that scathing statement is forming part of a high-profile coronial investigation.

Three years ago, when that young man was 17, he watched his two friends drown in front of him while they were all trying to escape from the police.

A group of youths ran into Perth's Swan River trying to outrun two police officers pursuing them after a nearby break and enter.

This week, that young man was forced to relive those traumatic moments for the coronial inquest into their deaths in Perth. His anger was palpable, his distrust of authorities clear.

The man, who for legal reasons was referred to only as "P", watched footage showing the police officers entering a powerful, wide stretch of the Swan River in a rescue attempt.

His response to the video of tactical response officers in the water was blunt: "He [the officer] could've gone in sooner."

The young man's words made it clear that he was unconvinced any police officer might try to save the life of someone from his community.

The coroner will eventually make recommendations about how to heal this relationship between the community and the police and ways to avoid such tragic deaths, but for the families involved it will never be enough.

If you can't understand that young man's anger and distrust, let me try to explain.

It's not just him, but his immediate circle and the broader Indigenous community who are angry that their people are still dying this way, despite decades-long calls for change.

In the past month alone, there have been several painful reminders for Indigenous Australians that reinforce their beliefs they can't always trust the state to keep them safe.

This month, there were three deaths in custody within weeks of each other, 30 years on from the royal commission that handed down 339 recommendations to stop this from happening.

Just months ago, tens of thousands of Australians took to the streets in Black Lives Matter protests, calling on the nation's leaders to change the record on Indigenous deaths in custody.

The most recent deaths were compounded by the bruising findings of a separate coronial inquest handed down this month into the 2018 death of Anaiwan-Dunghutti man Nathan Reynolds in a Sydney jail.

The coroner concluded that he died from an asthma attack but that the prison's health response was "confused, uncoordinated and unreasonably delayed."

Put simply, the state "deprived him of any chance at survival", the coroner said.

These recent deaths show us what lessons have been lost with the passing of time.

For years, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody made national headlines, led news bulletins, exposed a nation's cultural and legal shortcomings.

The hope was that the findings in 1991 could heal the fractured relationship between the Indigenous community and the authorities they had learnt not to trust.

But recent weeks have shown that many of those lessons of honesty, transparency and accountability have faded, along with the hope of meaningful change.

Report after report investigates Indigenous over-incarceration, the causes and solutions repeated time after time — yet the situation does not improve and the community's trust erodes.

Since that royal commission, there's been an explosion in the number of Indigenous Australians locked up.

Back then they made up 14 per cent of prisoners, now it's almost 30 per cent.

Despite some moves to make prisons and police cells safer, there have been hundreds of Indigenous deaths in custody since that report was handed down three decades ago next month.

Two of the most recent deaths that happened in recent weeks were only made public under intense questioning in a parliamentary estimates session.

The New South Wales Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin defended the move to keep them private, but for the Indigenous community, the secrecy was salt in an old wound.

It was a reminder that after all these years the relationship hasn't changed.

Again, for the community, it was a reason not to trust; a reason to be angry.

'Soul-crushing' search for justice for families
Waiting for months or years to hear about the last moments of your loved ones has become a well-worn path for Indigenous families relying on the coronial process to deliver the truth.

The result can be "soul-crushing", according to Taleah Reynolds, who has lived through this harsh reality during the coronial inquest into her sibling's death.

Her 36-year-old brother Nathan died in his prison cell, just one week before he was expected to be released.

The coroner's report this month found "numerous system deficiencies and individual errors of judgment" contributed to the death and provided her family with little comfort.

"This can't just be treated as an accident — it must be recognised as a huge institutional failing and people must be held responsible," Ms Reynolds said outside court at the time.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Compensation sought from cops over baseless prosecution

The power to prosecute can have big effects so must be used cautiously. This did not happen below

A lawyer for a North Queensland pilot said they are considering suing the Queensland Police for hundreds of thousands of dollars he claims his client has lost because of a botched trial.

Resolute Legal principal lawyer Michael Spearman said his client, Josh Hoch, deserved to be compensated for a “monumental loss” after his plane tampering trial was thrown out six days in because there wasn’t enough evidence.

Hoch was charged with 342 offences in January, 2017 following a multi-agency investigation into the alleged tampering of aircraft at Mount Isa Airport.

The investigation into nine of the plane tampering and associate sabotage charges reached Mount Isa District Court last week.

The process from the start of the investigation to the court date last week, took five years.

The trial, which was due to run for three weeks, came to an abrupt end on Monday when the Crown prosecution pulled the pin on their case due to a lack of evidence.

Justice John Henry said the evidence pinning Hoch to the alleged crimes was lacking. “There was no sighting of him in the relevant area at the relevant time to the exclusion of other possible contenders to say he must have done it,” Justice Henry said at court.

Mr Spearman said it was “abundantly clear” the matter should never have made it to court. “The passage of five years simply demonstrates that the charges were never a proper case for criminal prosecution,” he said.

Mr Spearman said his client had suffered “significant damage” to his work and personal life, had lost his career and business and was left hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

Mr Spearman said he is researching the prospect of taking legal action against the Queensland Police Service to compensate his client. “After suffering such monumental loss on a case that should never have made it to court, who compensates Mr Hoch?” Mr Spearman said.

The initial charges arose in October, 2016, when another pilot reported damage to his plane for the second time in a year.

The other pilot, from Macquarie Pilot Centre, claimed three of his planes had been tampered with, by having a contaminant poured into the fuel tanks of the aircraft.

When the engines fired, the contaminant caused ¬catastrophic damage to the ¬aircraft, grounding the planes for months.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Youtube streaming of NT police officer Zachary Rolfe's murder trial raised as concern in court


<i>The cop is in court because the deceased is black. No other reason</i>

The murder trial of Constable Zachary Rolfe could be streamed on YouTube to Alice Springs and the remote community of Yuendumu, where 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker died in November 2019.

At a pre-trial hearing in the Northern Territory Supreme Court today, Chief Justice Michael Grant said the court's administration was hoping to allow the broadcast of proceedings. He said it would be streamed to the courthouse in Alice Springs and at the school in the community of Yuendumu, about 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.

"There would be a facilitator [in Darwin] who would close down the broadcast whenever court is closed, whenever arguments are being made in the absence of the jury and otherwise, whenever the trial judge ordered," he said.

Crown Prosecutor Sophie Callan said the prosecution would not oppose the streaming of the trial to Yuendumu, but questioned whether other members of the public could access it.

"I think the question, your Honour, is whether it's some form of private YouTube channel or access to which others could, would be restricted," she said.

Constable Rolfe's defence lawyer, David Edwardson QC, said he had concerns about whether this would mean witnesses could potentially access the proceedings.

"We'd be most concerned if the public — the wider public — could access it outside of the hall," he said.

"How would the court envisage ensuring that nobody who accessed the hall, for example, at Yuendumu, was in fact a witness or potential witness in the proceedings?" he asked the court.

Justice Grant acknowledged the concerns but reminded lawyers that any member of the public would be entitled to come to court and watch the proceedings.

"I imagine it will be possible to have a police officer located in the school hall at Yuendumu, able to give effect to any order the trial judge makes for witnesses to remove themselves from the premises," Justice Grant said.

He said he would raise the matter with court staff.

The matter will return to court at the end of March.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Geelong police officer Sergeant David Magher found guilty on two counts of assault

A Geelong police officer has been found guilty of assault after kicking a man in custody three times to the side of his body.

Sergeant David Phillip Magher was charged with three counts of assault and suspended in 2018 by Professional Standards Command after kicking Andrew Birch as he was being transferred from a divisional van to a holding cell at Corio Police Station.

After a six-day contested hearing in the Geelong Magistrates' Court, Magistrate John Lesser found Sergeant Magher guilty of two counts of assault and dismissed a third count.

Magistrate Lesser said while in his view the first kick was "unnecessary", he could "not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the kicking action was not proportionate and reasonable".

"The second and third kicks stand out as of a completely different character to the first," Magistrate Lesser told the court.

"The level of force inflicted on Mr Birch [was] entirely inconsistent with the other members at the time, who had apparently obtained a measure of control of Mr Birch.

"They stood out as gratuitous and unnecessary and could not be justified as reasonable and proportionate use of force. As a result, there can be no justification for the use of force in those two kicks … which were delivered with considerable force.

"In the heat of the moment, Sergeant Magher crossed the line from the reasonable and proportionate … to the excessive and disproportionate and unjustifiable and therefore unlawful use of force on Mr Birch."

On September 21, 2018, then 36-year-old Mr Birch was arrested outside Corio Village Shopping Centre over a suspected armed robbery involving a knife and taken to Corio Police Station.

Security footage from the police station, played to the court, showed Mr Birch lunging towards Senior Sergeant Ian Kerin as he exited a police divisional van.

Sergeant Magher, who has been a police officer for more than 20 years, then kicked Mr Birch as he and Senior Sergeant Kerin pulled Mr Birch to the ground.

Mr Birch received two more kicks from Sergeant Magher as he was lying on the ground on his stomach with his handcuffed wrists pulled straight out in front of him and legs straight out behind him.

Magistrate Lesser dismissed the first kick on the grounds it could have been used as a tactic to make Mr Birch comply but ruled the two other kicks were excessive and unjustified.

Ten police witnesses were cross-examined during the hearing. All officers involved in Mr Birch's arrest agreed he resisted arrest, spat at officers, and screamed profanities.

Defence lawyer Stewart Bayles argued the kicks were "reasonable" and "proportionate" and were used by Sergeant Magher to protect the officers and himself from Mr Birch kicking out and spitting and to stop him from escaping.

In his closing remarks, Mr Bayles told the court a reasonable use of force "should not be equated with perfect or even best practice".

Crown prosecutor Sarah Thomas argued the kicks were an "excessive use of force that was not needed to seek compliance" and were instead used to punish Mr Birch for resisting arrest.

"When you view the video the inescapable conclusion is that these were three acts of gratuitous violence … toward someone who had given the police officers arresting him a hard time," she told the court.

Ms Thomas argued Mr Birch had stopped struggling "many seconds before" Sergeant Magher kicked him the second and third time.

She said all the officers, including Sergeant Magher, appeared relaxed on the CCTV as they prepared to move Mr Birch to a cell.

"The suggestion Mr Birch was on the ground for a lengthy period of time because he continued to be non-compliant, the suggestion by Mr Magher [Mr Birch] was kicking throughout, that was simply not correct," she said.

The court was told Superintendent Craig Gillard and Acting Inspector Michael Ryan reported Sergeant Magher to Professional Standards Command after Sergeant Magher admitted he used capsicum spray on Mr Birch twice during the arrest and told Acting Inspector Ryan: "I just wish I could delete the CCTV."

Mr Bayles argued his client never said that and accused Acting Inspector Ryan of lying.

Sergeant Magher will return to court later this week for sentencing.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Corrections officer charged over shooting death of Indigenous man

<i>Why?  It was part of an officer's duty to fire on a fleeing offender to prevent him escaping.  The Aboriginality of the offender explains the charge.  Blacks are innocent, don't you know?  All shootings of blacks are therefore suspect

It is true that shooting a fleeing felon in the back is disallowed for police -- with some justification.  But prison officers have their own rules and they are allowed to shoot at a fleeing felon if the felon would otherswise escape.  

And the guy fleeing in this case was a real bad egg who had previously got away with heaps.  So there was no call for mercy </i>

A NSW Corrective Services Officer has been charged with the manslaughter of an Indigenous prisoner who was fatally shot while handcuffed outside a hospital in northern NSW.

Wiradjuri man Dwayne Johnstone, 43, was shackled and running away from two corrections officers at Lismore Base Hospital when he was shot in the back on March 15, 2019. He was immediately treated in hospital but died a short time later.

Richmond Police District established Strike Force Degance to investigate.

Mr Johnstone’s death was the subject of an inquest before State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan, who on the third day of proceedings referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Police say that, following extensive inquiries, a 57-year-old man attended Lismore police station on Friday and was issued with a court attendance notice for an allegation of manslaughter.

He is due to face Lismore Local Court on March 29.

The inquest heard Mr Johnstone, who had a history of escaping custody, had been taken to hospital while on remand after having an epileptic seizure in the cells of Lismore Court House, where he had been denied bail on assault charges.

As he was escorted back to the van by two corrections officers – one of whom was armed with a revolver – he “elbowed” the unarmed officer who had a grip of his pants, throwing him off balance, and started running. The officers cannot be named for legal reasons.

The inquest heard the armed officer fired three shots, and the third shot hit Mr Johnstone in the mid-back, going through his aorta, liver and diaphragm.

Counsel assisting the coroner Peggy Dwyer told the inquest in October that armed corrections officers carry guns but, unlike police, are not equipped with non-lethal weapons, such as Tasers, extendable batons or capsicum spray.

She said corrections officers might legally discharge firearms in a number of circumstances, including “to prevent the escape of an inmate” – with a number of provisos, including that a warning must be given and there cannot be reasonable grounds to believe the shot could hit another person.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Australia Day Arrests as police clash with Invasion Day protesters

Peaceful protests calling for a change to the January 26 Australia Day holiday turned ugly as police clashed with protesters and, on one occasion, a protester was forcefully removed by bikies.

Thousands gathered for Invasion Day protests in Australia’s capital cities and in regional centres.

After hours of speeches at the Domain in the Sydney CBD, where police told protesters they could gather but not march, a number of protesters were arrested.

In Canberra, a man wearing a Make America Great Again cap and waving an Australian flag was forcibly removed from an Invasion Day rally by three men in bikie colours.

As he drove away, the assembled crowd cheered.

In Melbourne, thousands marched from Parliament House down Bourke Street after a peaceful protest in which police refused to remove their hats, a stance in line with police procedure.

The clash between police and protesters at the Domain in Sydney followed a warning from police. “If you do the right thing, I’ll do the right thing,” an officer told an organiser as 3000 people gathered.

NSW Police said five people were arrested including an 18-year-old man who was not part of the gathering.

One man was charged with assaulting police and one woman was charged with hindering police in the execution of duty.

Two other men were each fined $1000 and released.

Earlier, in the Sydney suburb of Newtown, a fresh mural painted by acclaimed street artist Scott Marsh emerged at first light.

It shows Scott Morrison dressed as Captain James Cook next to two words, “Captain Cooked”, and the hashtag #ChangeTheDate.

A speaker at the Sydney event, Gwenda Stanley, told a crowd of more than 500 people that it was time Indigenous Australians were given proper reparations. “A million dollars for each black person,” she said.

“Don’t be fooled by the Uluru statement from the arse. Let’s do reparations before treaty. A million dollars for each black person and than we can talk treaty.”

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing yesterday warned officers would not hesitate to ensure crowd numbers stayed under 500. “Do not come in and be part of that public gathering. Find another way to express your views and opinions,” he said.

“We are all aware that these are sensitive issues and they are very important issues to a lot of people, but we are still in the middle of a global pandemic and we’re asking people to abide by those health orders.”

Police will be able to issue on-the-spot fines upwards of $1000 but the penalty for breaching public health orders comes with a fine up to $11,000 and a six-month jail term.

The coronavirus pandemic this year saw Victorians unable to gather for an Australia Day rally because it was deemed a public health risk by the state government. But Melbourne City Council did approve an Invasion Day Dawn Service.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the seated, 250-capacity service at Kings Domain was “a way of supporting an event that reflects that ancient Australian history”.

The January 26 public holiday has in recent years seen thousands of Australians take to the streets to protest against Australia’s national holiday.

Thousands have gathered outside Parliament House in Melbourne for a demonstration where a minute of silence was observed. Huge crowds are also peacefully protesting in Brisbane.

Organisers of the Sydney protest told 3000 people turned up. “They allowed us to occupy the Domain and for the event to go ahead so long as there was a no marching so that wasn’t the compromise,” Ian Brown said.

Mr Brown, a Gomeroi man from Moree, said the Uluru Statement from the Heart which proposed a voice to parliament, was not the answer. “The statement doesn’t do enough. They have this idea the statement is a grassroots movement. There was no consultation done on my homelands.

The Invasion Day rallies call for, among other things, a changing of the date to reflect the fact that for some it represents more than the beginning of British colonialism when the First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788.

They want it to be moved because that same date represents the “continued genocide of Aboriginal people”.

One of the key figures in the NSW Black Lives Matter movement has told changing the date of Australia Day from January 26 will not be enough.

Paul Silva is the nephew of David Dungay Jr, a Dunghutti man from Kempsey, who died in prison custody in 2015.

“I’m here to demand the abolishment of Australia Day. It’s not significant to us as First Nations people. Over 250 years ago the First Fleet come in and murdered, raped and stole children of our ancestors.”

Mr Silva said the whole day needed to be abolished. “Changing the date is not going to make a difference in my view.  “That we allow Australia to celebrate a day when murders and criminal activity took place is just appalling.”

Mr Silva also hit out at Prime Minister Scott Morrison who last week stoked controversy by suggesting that those who arrived on the First Fleet didn’t have a “flash day” either. “Him making comments like that is just appalling. He basically condones what happened when the First Fleet come here.”

Lidia Thorpe, the first Indigenous woman in Victorian parliament, is using her platform to call for change. On Twitter, she wrote: “Too many Australians still think January 26 is a day of celebration, but for Aboriginal people across this country, it’s a Day of Mourning.

“That’s why I’m inviting communities, councils and organisations to fly the Aboriginal flag at half-mast on #InvasionDay.”

Invasion Day protests have been planned for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart, Newcastle, Rockhampton, Lismore, Albury and Lithgow

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Three cops violently restrain an Aborigine who hit them while resisting arrest

<i>"Disturbing"?  Hardly.  What do you expect when a known crook hits a cop?

This is typical of the problems cops face when someone refuses to go quietly.  They have to use force but what exactly they do depends of what the crook does.  It all has to be done in seconds, leaving little room for making ideal judgments.  The cops do what they perceive as  needed in the moment even though armchair critics might think differently

And this guy was no innocent.  He had clearly heard of the George Floyd case and thought he could bluff the cops with his knowledge of it. His claim "I can't breathe" appears to have had no substance as he came to no lasting harm -- unlike George Floyd who really could not breathe and promptly died of his situation.</i>

A disturbing video has captured the moment police officers repeatedly punched and kicked an indigenous elder before pinning him to the ground and leaving him gasping for air during a violent arrest.

'I can't breathe' the man screams while lying on the narrow footpath in Campbelltown in south west Sydney. 

The ugly footage shows the 47-year-old being restrained by three male officers from the Campbelltown City Police Area Command at about 2.40pm on Tuesday.

The man, identified by a witness as Uncle Bud of Campbelltown, resists arrest and begins trading blows with police who react with force.

The video clip the shows the arrest taking a frightening when officers begin laying into the victim.  

One officer knees the victim while another throws a wild punch at his stomach. 

The indigenous man lashes out with his fist sparking a vicious response from the officers.

One policeman punches the victim in the face before he is wrestled to the ground and kicked once more for good measure. 

While pinned down the man repeatedly shouts 'I can't breathe' as witnesses berate the officers for their heavy-handedness.

The person who posted the clip to Facebook said the man received the 'royalty treatment' by New South Wales police.

But police have denied claims the officers involved did anything wrong.

NSW Police told Daily Mail Australia the man was seen riding a bike on Peppin Crescent in Airds when officers attempted to stop him.

He was wanted for breaching his bail conditions. 

NSW Police said he allegedly failed to comply with the order to stop and tried to flee but officers caught up with him when he lost control and crashed the bike.  

'It's alleged the man resisted the officers and punched a constable and senior constable multiple times to the head,' NSW Police said. 

'The man was subdued and during a search of him police located and seized an amount of methamphetamine.' 

The was later taken to Campbelltown Police Station and charged with the breach of bail, as well as three counts of assault police, resist arrest and possess prohibited drug. 

His bail was refused bail when he appeared at Parramatta Local Court on Wednesday December, 30.