Most of us would not bash another person for an obscene hand gesture – but the relatively minor act of ‘flipping the bird’ quickly turned violent for a young Perth man who was enjoying a night out with his girlfriend.
26-year-old aircraft engineer Brandt Croswell gave police ‘the finger’ outside a Perth nightclub in October 2012 – but instead of handling the incident in a professional and proportionate manner, a senior police constable and his partner grabbed Mr Croswell by the throat and violently threw him to the ground, before picking up his head and slamming it on the concrete pavement, rendering him unconscious.
But it was Mr Croswell, not the assaulting police, who faced criminal charges over the incident.
Mr Croswell has finally cleared his name after a three-year legal battle – but the police officers responsible for the attack have not been reprimanded or disciplined in any way.
The incident is the latest in a string of cases where police have used dangerous and unjustified force against members of the public.
Police Lie Under Oath
Mr Croswell was initially found guilty of assaulting the officer in question, but a retrial was ordered after CCTV footage emerged of the incident. After viewing that footage, Perth Magistrate Andrew Maughan found that Mr Croswell was clearly innocent of the charges.
The footage shows Senior Constable Phillip Dawson, flanked by another officer, grabbing Mr Maughan by the throat and slamming his head into the ground. Despite police alleging that Mr Croswell had provoked them, the Magistrate found that he did not present any physical threat to the officers.
The footage proved the inaccuracy of Senior Constable Dawson’s sworn statement and testimony in court, wherein he denied grabbing Mr Croswell’s throat at all. Magistrate Maughan said that the officer’s denial “beggars belief.”
While Mr Croswell did headbutt the officer in the chest, the Magistrate found that he only did so because he was “provoked, scared and rendered defenceless.”
The Magistrate also found that Dawson and his associate, Officer Kandic, “exaggerated their evidence as to the extent of the accused’s resistance.”
The Court heard that Mr Croswell’s girlfriend witnessed the incident and filmed it on her phone, but that phone was confiscated by the police. When the phone was returned to her, the video had been deleted. Evidently, Mr Croswell’s defence lawyers neglected to recover the footage by sending the phone to a digital recovery expert.
Fortunately, Mr Croswell was ultimately able to obtain CCTV footage of the incident, and persuaded the court to order a retrial on the basis of “fresh evidence”.
Speaking outside the courthouse, he told the media, “it’s just great the truth has finally come out.”
But although Mr Croswell has finally been vindicated, no action has been taken against the two officers responsible for the vicious attack – both have been allowed to remain in the WA Police Force without sanction.
Queensland Man Suffers Brain Injury After Police Brutality
Meanwhile in Queensland, a 50-year-old Gold Coast man is pursuing legal action after suffering brain damage due to a brutal assault by police.
Ray Currier was bashed unconscious by five police officers outside a Surfer’s Paradise nightclub in 2015.
A dispute had broken out between security guards and Mr Currier’s work colleagues, who he had been drinking and dining with that night. Mr Currier intervened and attempted to move his colleagues and their partners away from the entrance to the club, but before he could do so, he was bashed by attending police.
Like Mr Croswell, he copped the blame instead of the police, and was charged with assault and obstructing a police officer. The charges were dropped late last year when it became clear that he was merely trying to help diffuse the incident.
Mr Currier’s wife told the media that her husband suffered brain damage as a result of the bashing, regularly experiencing blinding headaches and struggling to identify his close friends and family.
The case has been referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission for investigation, but it is unclear whether the officers involved will be stood down.
Sadly, many others across Australia share similar experiences to Mr Croswell and Mr Currier; with the NSW Ombudsman receiving over 3000 complaints against police officer each year – a number that has been rising in recent years.
Despite police codes of conduct and laws requiring officers to only use force which is ‘reasonably necessary,’ many shocking incidents of police brutality have gone unpunished; the message being that officers are unlikely to face internal disciplinary action for horrendous assaults against members of the public, let alone criminal charges.
The concern is that the current lack of accountability will lead to the commission of further brutal and dangerous assaults by those who are paid to protect and serve us.