By now you will have seen footage of a solidly-built police officer throwing a slightly-built, handcuffed young man to the hard ground and then standing on his body at last Saturday’s Mardi Gras.
You may also have seen tv interviews where the man and his companion said he was lucky not to have suffered serious head injuries, or even been killed.
You may have also heard the audio of police demanding that an onlooker stop filming.
Thankfully he refused and kept filming.
I think it’s important to express that this is not an isolated example of police heavy-handedness.
Those of us who deal with these types of cases on regular basis see it all the time – police assaulting someone then charging them with assault, which immediately puts the defendant on the ‘back foot’.
The only thing rare about this particular case is that:
1. The person who filmed the incident did not comply with police demands to stop filming &
2. Perhaps for that reason, police did not deliver a few ‘cheap shots’; as they so often do.
I regularly hear eye-witnesses reports of police demanding that onlookers stop filming and/or grabbing their phones, often threatening to charge them with ‘hindering police’.
I’ve too often seen the aftermath of police assaults against regular members of the community, who are then charged with assault.
My clients often say things like ‘I can’t believe this can happen in Australia’ or ‘I always had so much respect for the police’.
I see the photos, hear the consistent eye-witness accounts and have – on many occasions -discredited lying police on the witness stand.
These are police who get together to draft their statements and, very often, lie under oath or affirmation.
I have a case at the moment where my client was pulled over when police detected that he had previously been issued with a ‘defect notice’ for the car he was driving.
My client immediately got the defect notice out of his glovebox to prove that the problem had been rectified; ie that the defect had been repaired by a qualified repairer and signed-off on.
Police refused to look at the notice and, instead, physically pulled him out of the car.
That action was clearly unwarranted and constituted an assault.
My client became justifiably upset and said ‘get off me’, ‘you’re hurting me’ and ‘fuck off’.
Police then delivered several blows to his face and body, threw him to the ground and delivered further blows while he was on the ground.
The entire incident was witnessed by a middle aged neighbour, who was gardening in her front yard and was shocked by police actions.
She was more than happy to provide me with a statement, which was entirely consistent with the statements from my client and his partner, who was in the passenger seat.
More importantly, the whole thing was captured by the in-car police camera.
Police charged my client with using offensive language and assaulting police.
His partner was also charged with offensive language.
My client reported the incident to me that evening.
Shortly thereafter, I compiled and sent police a copy of the defect notice, photos of my client’s injuries, the hospital records and eye-witness statements, all of which corroborated my client’s version of the events.
I requested a copy of the In Car Footage and advised that Supreme Court Proceedings would likely be initiated for the assault.
I quickly received calls from both the Superintendent and Local Area Commander confirming that the footage indeed depicted police assaulting my client, and asking about my intentions with the matter!
Although they did not say it directly, there was a clear inference that the best course was for all parties to ‘walk away’; ie for my client not to pursue the matter and for police to consider withdrawing the charges.
Police patently refused, however, to provide me with a copy of the footage and I have issued a subpoena for its production; which I’m sure they will try to resist.
This is just one case where police have assaulted a person without sufficient justification, then charged that person with criminal offences.
I’ve had countless cases over the years of multiple police officers assaulting law-abiding citizens, thereby causing serious injuries and hospitalisation, then charging the person they assaulted with assaulting police.
It seems that the only time police are even slightly concerned about their actions is when the event is filmed, and the footage is either:
(a) released to the media, or
(b) used in Supreme Court Proceedings against the NSW Police Service.
Needless to say, it is extremely rare for any type of disciplinary action to be brought against the assaulting officers, let alone charges being brought for assault.
So if you see a police officer acting aggressively, FILM IT!
Don’t stop filming, whatever they say!
Filming an incident DOES NOT constitute ‘hindering police’ Unless you’re right up in their faces or are otherwise directly interfering with their actions.
The NSW Police Service has enjoyed it’s lack of accountability for far too long.
It needs to face the consequences of police misconduct, like police departments in the United States and other Western Nations.