By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim
New South Wales taxpayers will once again foot the bill after an officer unlawfully and brutally arrested a 17-year old outside a bakery at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains.
A District Court judge has ordered the government to pay the now 21-year old man $124,000 in compensation, after finding that officers engaged in assault and battery, false imprisonment and conducted a malicious prosecution.
The story so far.
In 2014, the teen was with a group of friends at a public bench outside a bakery late at night, after a house party in the Blue Mountains.
The group was then confronted by police officers about what they were doing there and (unlawfully) issued with a ‘move on direction’. The teen then allegedly used profanity.
One of the officers, Constable Budin, then grabbed the “diminutive” teen and swung him by the shirt, causing him to make heavy contact with the ground.
Police then arrested the teen and charged with assault, resisting arrest, using offensive language in a public place and failing to obey a police direction to move on.
The case proceeded to a hearing in the Children’s Court where the magistrate dismissed all of the charges except offensive language.
The skater then sued for assault and battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
Manhandled by a mature man
Judge Nielsen of the District Court found that Constable Budin was “insulted by the personal and professional slight” and overreacted by assaulting and arresting the teenager, who did not look 17, but perhaps only 12 or 13 at the time.
The act amounted to “being manhandled by a mature man, a constable of police”, His Honour remarked.
“The fact that the plaintiff was a minor, a child, ought to have been obvious to Constable Budin”.
The judge found there was nothing to justify the assault and arrest, noting that police had other options available to them.
“Even if the plaintiff continued to use offensive language, in my opinion, Budin was not entitled to arrest in such circumstances unless the plaintiff refused to identify himself or produce some form of identification. Without proper justification, Constable Budin’s actions amounted to assault and the teenager was entitled to resist him in self-defence.”
The judge criticised police for indulging in “sterotypification”, noting that the prosecution’s written submissions saw fit to claim “that the young man was amongst large numbers of irrational, intoxicated youths who made plain their intention to disregard and disobey police instructions”.
His Honour ruled that the “move on” direction given to the teens was also invalid as its basis was tenuous and the officers failed to specify a time limit in which the youths could return.
Judge Neilson found that at the very least, the officer recklessly inflicted pain on the minor on the belief “that he could pass what he did off under the colour of his office”.
“The Court must decry such behaviour towards a minor. Constable Budin, indeed all members of the police force, must be extremely careful when dealing with minors,” he stated.
Police brutality in Australia
NSW police have been in the spotlight recently for their violent arrest of a naked, disturbed teenager in Byron Bay earlier this year. Also this year, a mentally ill man died in hospital after being tasered by officer.
And down south recently, a Melbourne man released footage to social media capturing Protective Services Officers stomping on his son’s broken ankle during an arrest at a suburban train station. As usual, police have denied any wrongdoing and pointed out the stresses of the job, which requires “split-second decision making”.
Also in Melbourne, footage uploaded to social media showed officers kicking a 22-year old restrained man in the face, and officers were widely condemned for their brutal treatment of a disabled pensioner in his own front yard.
Figures from the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) annual report show that from July to October 2017, the Commission had received more than 400 direct police misconduct complaints and investigated over 200 of them.
Police in NSW are equipped with batons, taser, guns and capsicum spray. And while each situation is different, rarely is excessive force warranted, no matter the circumstances.
And with police overwhelmingly investigating themselves over misconduct claims, and taxpayers rather than individual officers footing the bill for criminal misconduct, it’s no wonder officers are not deterred from acting outside the law.
Indeed, there is no information to suggest that Officer Budin has been disciplined over his misconduct.