Another Video of Police Brutality Prompts Internal Review


The Queensland Police Force will undergo an internal review following multiple incidents of police brutality, a number of which have been documented in our past blogs.

The incidents have led to the appointment of a senior internal police investigator to look into the culture and powers of Queensland police, especially those stationed on the Gold Coast.

A proposal has already been put forward calling for all officers to wear body cameras – a move that is aimed at promoting transparency and accountability.

Latest Video to Surface

Queensland police have once again come under fire for the “horrendous” assault of 20-year-old Brayden Aaron Mechen in Surfers Paradise during an arrest last year.

Video footage has emerged of officers dragging Mr Mechen into a police van, before punching him in the face. As is often the case, police initially charged Mr Mechen with “assault police”, and he was due to appear in the Magistrates court. However, police later dropped the charges against him.

One of the officers, Matthew Neijam, resigned shortly after the incident. He had initially claimed that Mr Mechen spat at him – but Mechen vehemently denied that claim, and no such conduct is seen in the CCTV footage, which is perhaps why the charges were dropped.

In another incident last year, 21-year-old chef Noa Begic was brutally bashed by police in the carpark of a Surfers Paradise police station. Leaked CCTV footage of the sickening assault sent shockwaves through the Australian community. Ironically, Sergeant Rick Flori is now facing criminal misconduct charges for allegedly leaking the footage and thereby exposing the misconduct of his fellow officers.

“Reasonable Force”

Police are only allowed to use as much force as is reasonable and necessary to arrest a person, and no more. Anything beyond this is an assault, and police are liable to criminal prosecution just like anyone else.

Legislation

In New South Wales, section 230 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (“the LEPRA”) states that police can only use force that “is reasonably necessary to exercise the[ir] function”. Section 231 makes it clear that such force cannot go beyond what is required “to make the arrest or to prevent the escape of the person after arrest.”

Police Policy

In addition to the LEPRA, the NSW Police Force Handbook says that people should only be arrested where necessary, that other options should be explored where appropriate, that officers must have a “good reason” for handcuffing someone who is being arrested, and that police must take all reasonable measures to prevent injury if they decide to arrest a person.

Case Law

The meaning of “reasonable force” was considered in the case of Makri v State of New South Wales [2015] NSWDC 131.

In that case, Judge Gibson cited R v Turner [1962] VR 30 at 36 in finding that:

“What is reasonable depends upon two factors. He [the officer] is entitled to use such a degree of force as in the circumstances he reasonably believes to be necessary to effect his purpose, provided that the means adopted by him are such as a reasonable man placed as he was placed would not consider to be disproportionate to the evil to be prevented (ie the commission of a felony or the escape of the felon).”

So, there are two questions to be asked when determining whether reasonable force was exercised:

  1. Did the officer ‘reasonably believe’ that the force that he or she exercised was necessary? and
  2. Would a reasonable person in the same position as the officer believe that such force was proportionate to the suspect’s actions?

If either of those questions is answered in the negative, then the police officer will have used excessive force and will potentially be liable to criminal charges, which may include:

  • Common assault – if little or no injury was inflicted;
  • Assault occasioning actual bodily harm – if more than just ‘transient or trifling’ injuries were caused,
  • Reckless or intentional wounding – if both layers of the person’s skin were broken (dermis and epidermis),
  • Reckless or intentional infliction of grievous bodily harm – if very serious injuries were caused (such as broken bones, internal injuries or disfigurement), or
  • Affray – if the conduct of the officer/s would have caused a person to fear for their immediate physical safety, even if no such person was actually present at the time.

Prosecuting the Police

It would be difficult for someone who has viewed the recently leaked footage to sensibly argue that police are not guilty of some form of assault.

Indeed, repeatedly punching a man to the head while that man is being restrained by another (as in the case of Noa Begic), and dragging a man to a van before punching him in the face (as in the case of Brayden Mechen) would ordinarily expose perpetrators to the very real prospect of a prison sentence.

When those who have sworn to uphold the law are engaging in such reprehensible, dangerous and cowardly conduct, and when that conduct is only exposed due to leaks by brave police officers and public recordings, swift and decisive measures must be taken to restore the integrity of the police force, and to send a strong message to other officers that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

The alternative is that the current culture of crime and corruption continues to fester and grow, and that public respect for the force diminishes with every leaked video.


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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.

One comment

  1. Chris Wilson

    Police Harassment and misconduct. Here is my experience of how the police complaints system is just as ineffective as it was before setting up of the LECC and also how the LECC have been unable to assist me with a complaint about Police misconduct that has left me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    Since 2014, I’ve been subjected to Police misconduct, prejudice & harassment after making a complaint about officers from Wollongong LAC. It began in 2014 when they attended an illegal parking report from me. I had simply asked for their names, and was told ‘Can’t you read the badge?’ while I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I couldn’t read the badges! I made a formal complaint about “Officer M” and “Officer S” (names withheld) which became the start of acts of revenge to this day by the same officers for years later. I fear I may be on the STMP (Suspect Target Management Plan).
    In 2015 the neighbours next door began building a house. The developers showed no respect for us so we complained to Wollongong Council about rubbish dumping, trespass, property damage, & working out of Council permitted hours at the site. On 5 Nov 2015 I was assaulted by a worker at the site. I waited, bleeding and bruised, for 3 hours before Police came. I began suffering PTSD from the assault and needed treatment for it.
    During 2016 Officer M visited me many times over false accusations made by the (now vexatious) neighbours next door. It was obvious he had a grudge against me since the complaint, & was always goading me into incriminating myself with the false claims. But any report made to Police by me was dismissed as “trivial”.
    I have the Police event reports via Right to Information showing this prejudice very clearly.
    From March to November 2016 the neighbours then setup 5 security cameras that could record me in my own private living spaces.
    I asked the Community Justice Centre to mediate about it. But instead, the neighbours reported it to Police as “harassment.”
    In November 2016 a dispute over them damaging our fence, resulted in the neighbours calling Police. I was arrested by Officer M for trivial matters such as trespass while delivering a letter and a minutes worth of non threatening discussion over the fence. There were lies & false accusations in the Police Facts & an AVO application was made against me (containing more lies).
    Officer M forcibly took me to the Police Station without glasses which I need to read, & not even sandals for my bare feet. I had no cash, ID, or house keys. I couldn’t read documents I was obliged to sign. The arrest was unnecessary considering a Field Court Attendance Notice could have been used.
    An interim AVO was issued against me.
    One week later, the neighbour began provoking us with things like throwing green waste across my driveway, throwing rubbish into our yard, and other actions I would class as stalking. All intended to get me to react and breach my AVO.
    In Court the charges against me were dismissed but the AVO was issued for 12 months.
    My neighbours have since had a campaign to try and get me to breach the AVO by reacting to their ongoing harassment.
    On 8 August 2017 I told Police I was being stalked & harassed by them, but they didn’t help me.
    Then, on 22 Aug 2017, Officer S came to my home saying the neighbour had reported I was “constantly driving down the laneway, staring into their backyard”, “shining torches into their yard” saying it was “all on camera”. These are lies. The AVO didn’t even have a condition of “no contact” in it after the Magistrate deleted it, and I hadn’t done it anyway. I asked the Officers name twice before he told me. He gave me a ‘strong caution’, & said next time I breached my AVO I’d “go to jail”. When I asked Wollongong LAC for the Event number, they it was “off the record”.
    I got other Event reports via Right to Information and saw comments like “He is continually harassing every person who attends next door”, “The POI smugly refused to answer questions”, “The POI has become fixated with the construction of the dwelling”
    They even wrote “Although he is suspected of committing a number of offences he always conducts himself in such a manner as to avoid detection”.
    Was it ever considered this is because I actually had nothing to do with alleged offences in the first place? The presumption of guilt was made before any actual evidence was found.
    I now suffer ongoing PTSD, anxiety, recurring nightmares & depression since the arrest & harassment. I’m afraid I’ll be arrested for anything, as they don’t rely on proof or truth.
    I reported it all to the LECC with a specific request that the matter be handled by another independent unit, NOT connected to the Wollongong LAC. But instead, they just passed it back to the NSW Police Integrity Commission.
    An inspector from Wollongong LAC then attempted to contact me on phone numbers that I had not even given permission to use. I didn’t contact him back and called the PIC.
    They couldn’t explain why or how I was being contacted (against my wishes) by the same LAC that had prejudice against me. So now I had had to go through the whole process again.
    After complaining to the LECC again, I was contacted by an Inspector from Lake Illawarra LAC. This means effectively it’s the same as dealing with Wollongong LAC.
    The harassment from the neighbour has been on going, so on 22 Feb 2018 I went and made another report about the stalking and harassment. But as usual it seems Police are not interested in doing anything to help me. An event number was created but nothing done, and no one contacted me back. The officer I reported it to didn’t even bother looking at all the evidence I had with me. Had I done what my neighbour has been doing now, I would be facing charges for it all.
    So it seems making a complaint about NSW police just reverts back to the old process of internal investigation. I now live in fear that Police will harass me further and it’s very obvious that making a complaint about NSW Police behaviour has resulted in revenge acts by them. They don’t seem interested any anything I have to tell them nor look likely to properly investigate my complaint.
    I don’t have access to what should be a public service for everyone. I have a neighbour who is getting away with criminal activity and the biased Police won’t help me. I am now ignored by Police when I need their help.
    I cannot see how this is “justice for all” or in any way a fair and honest public service.
    It shows what a waste of time the creation of the LECC has been .
    I have a wealth of evidence (which has been seen and verified by a number of lawyers including Redfern Legal Service) should you wish to see any of it.
    Thanks for taking the time to read my story.

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