A South Australian man who suffered a brain injury after a Senior Police officer slammed his head into a counter while he was in custody has spent more than three years fighting to have charges against him thrown out of court.
A South Australian court has found in favour of Nathan Cross, dismissing the charges brought by police against him after finding no evidence to support them, a decision which came after the court viewed distressing CCTV footage from Victor Harbour Police Station, which showed Senior Constable Higgins slamming the Mr Cross’s head into a counter after a verbal altercation.
‘No perceived threat’
As Mr Cross lay on the floor of the police station bleeding and unconscious, the officers are knelt on one of his legs and his lower back, before they eventually got up and dragged him to a side room.
Before the incident, Mr Cross was handcuffed, and there were four officers to handle him. Police had originally alleged that Senior Constable Higgins feared he would be headbutted or spat on, but the court found that there was “no perceived threat” from the time of Mr Cross’s arrest until the moment he was assaulted.
The CCTV footage will now be used against South Australian Police. Mr Cross’ lawyers have filed a civil suit claiming police failed in their duty of care and were negligent. Mr Cross is seeking compensation for his brain injury and the loss of future work, which will need to be paid by the state’s taxpayers if successful, not by the assailant.
South Australian Police have not commented on the case, except to say in a statement that they are ‘reviewing the Magistrate’s findings’.
The officer has not been disciplined in any way, let alone criminally prosecuted for what the court made clear amounted to an assault.
Police break a mans’ leg in unlawful arrest
In another incident, a South Australian man has been awarded $700,000 in compensation after South Australian police officers broke his leg during an unlawful arrest.
Matthew Crossley has been in a legal battle with police since the incident in 2013. Police used capsicum spray and the ‘leg lock manoeuvre’ to arrest him, and left his femur so badly broken that he now has a 40 centimetre rod in his leg.
Earlier this year, the South Australian District Court ruled that the two applications of capsicum spray and the leg lock amounted to three acts of battery, committed by the police officers.
Judge Sydney Tilmouth also found the use of the leg lock in order to handcuff Mr Crossley was “unnecessary and excessive” because he was already restrained. He added that Mr Crossley was entitled to resist the arrest because the officers had failed to explain the reason why he was being arrested, which rendered it “unlawful.”
The arrest of Curtis Scott
Only last week, damning evidence was presented in a NSW court by the lawyers representing NRL player Curtis Scott, who was also acquitted of all charges laid against him by police after his arrest in January. In the video footage, police taser and douse Mr Scott with capsicum spray and handcuff him, before he regains consciousness.
Section 6 of the Police Act 1990 (NSW) outlines the mission of the police force, which is ‘protect persons from injury or death, and property from damage, whether arising from criminal acts or in any other way.’
Police watchdogs are under-resourced and have no power to discipline
Around Australia, Police – or, rather, taxpayers – are increasingly being made to pay for the use of ‘unnecessary or excessive force’, which is a damning indictment on not only police forces and officers, but also on the effectiveness of the police oversight bodies – which have been set up to investigate misconduct and maladministration within law enforcement; bodies that are under-resourced and have absolutely no power to discipline officers, let alone criminally prosecute them.
This creates a situation whereby police officers are able to conduct crimes with virtual impunity, and without fear of being brought to account like other members of the community.
Australians deserve better, as the situation undermines both the rule of law and public confidence in the bodies we pay billions of dollars every year to keep us safe, not to mention puts members of the public in very real physical danger.