We recently penned a blog about removalist Rickey Caton, who was assaulted and then charged by police after he jokingly showed two officers a toy dinosaur during a roadside stop.
But it seems the joke is now on the police – or more accurately, the taxpayer – with a magistrate this week ordering the NSW Police Force to reimburse Mr Caton $100,000 in legal costs.
Mr Caton was driving his green Holden Commodore near Queanbeyan on the 21st of December 2013 when he was pulled over by Senior Constables Patrick Hicks and Todd Finnegan.
Unbeknownst to him, they were on the hunt for an armed offender who was reported to have committed a home invasion moments earlier – and who had allegedly been driving a dark coloured Commodore.
When the officers asked Mr Caton whether he was carrying any weapons, he jokingly replied, ‘I haven’t got any weapons but I’ve got a dinosaur…roaaar!’
He then produced a harmless blue and purple plastic toy dinosaur which belonged to his young daughter and showed it to police.
But what started off as an innocent joke soon spiralled into a physical assault, unlawful arrest and even workplace bullying – with officers attached to the Monaro LAC at the centre of the debacle.
Joke Gone Horribly Wrong
Instead of putting aside Mr Caton’s cheeky joke, Senior Constable Finnegan reportedly pulled him from the driver’s seat, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him, while his colleague, Senior Constable Hicks, crash-tackled his friend and passenger Adam Antram into a wall.
A third officer who was on duty, Senior Constable Lucie Litchfield, watched in horror at the way her colleagues handled the situation. She later wrote a statement detailing what had occurred – which completely contradicted the statements of Constables Finnegan and Hicks, who denied that any assault had taken place.
Good Cop Punished
Instead of being applauded for speaking out against police misconduct, Ms Litchfield experienced bullying and harassment from her colleagues in the weeks following the incident.
Word soon got out that Ms Litchfield’s statement contradicted those of Constables Finnegan and Hicks – which resulted in her being victimised by officers at the police station. She reported that her colleagues would leave, or immediately stop talking, as soon as she entered a room.
On one occasion, she came back to her desk to find a copy of the NSW Police Force policy regarding the protection of internal police complainants. Ms Litchfield says that her internal complaint was completely disregarded, and that those responsible were never investigated.
Speaking to the media this week, Ms Litchfield said:
‘I was placed on a return to work plan that mean I would have to go back to Queanbeyan after a month. When I then submitted my resignation it was made clear by the commander that my only option was to return to that station.’
Eventually, it all became too much and Ms Litchfield who made the decision to leave the Force for good.
Meanwhile, Rickey Caton and Adam Antram were facing court over charges of resisting arrest and assaulting police.
They were served with a Court Attendance Notice by Constable Hicks at their workplace, which resulted in them both being sacked from their jobs.
The matter proceeded to hearing at Kiama Court last week before Magistrate Douglass.
The Court heard ‘cogent and compelling’ evidence from Ms Litchfield, who told the Magistrate that she ‘was probably in shock’ when she watched her colleagues tackle Mr Antram. She proceeded to describe the full brunt of the assault delivered by the officers – as well as the discrimination she experienced in her workplace.
The police prosecutor was forced to withdraw all charges in the middle of Ms Litchfield’s evidence.
The Magistrate also heard from Mr Caton’s criminal lawyer, who submitted that:
‘the NSW Police failed to appreciate that the more serious allegations of criminality pertained to the officers in charge of the investigation rather than the people who were being prosecuted.’
He argued that:
‘the misjudgment displayed by the continuing prosecution of this matter, all the while knowing that there was a major internal allegation of corruption that went to the heart of the proceedings, is regrettable in the extreme.’
Magistrate Douglass found that ‘the proceedings should not have been brought,’ because ‘the prosecutor failed to properly investigate relevant matters…which might have suggested that the accused was not guilty.’
He ordered that police pay Mr Caton $100,000 in legal costs.
But for Mr Caton and Mr Antram, the fight is not over yet. The pair have promised to bring civil proceedings against the officers in the District Court for ‘trespass to the person’ and false allegations concerning the ‘assault police’ charges.
The police officers have reportedly been referred to the Professional Standards Command for internal investigation.