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There is no list of words which are considered to be ‘offensive’ under NSW law.

Whether a word or phrase is offensive depends on the context in which it is used, and whether it would ‘wound the feelings, arouse anger or resentment or outrage in the mind of a reasonable person.’

The words must be said in or near a public place or school to constitute offensive language under the law.

Sydney Protest 

In September 2015, Christian Democratic Party leader MP Fred Nile led a protest in Sydney against proposed same-sex marriage laws.

A counter protest was conducted at the same time by members and supporters of activist group Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH).

During the protest, CAAH convenors Cat Rose and Patrick Wright were issued with criminal infringement notices (CINs) for offensive language after chanting ‘fuck Fred Nile’ and ‘bigots fuck off’. 

CAAH member and LGBTI Officer for the National Union of Students, April Holcombe, received a CIN days after the event for saying:

“We need to make a stand against them and make sure us using bad language about the fuckers is nothing compared to the epidemic of suicides there people contribute to”.

Ms Holcombe later said:

“I was called 48 hours after the protest to be told that I had sworn, that this was on police footage, and that my $500 fine was in the mail… The police are keeping tabs on protesters and trying to intimidate them with shady penalty notices”.

Police then realised the CINs wereinvald because they cannot be issued during a genuine demonstration or protest.

They then issued Court Attendance Notices instead.

In Court 

The case reached a defended hearing before Magistrate Bradd in Downing Centre Local court yesterday, where the trio faced fines of up to $660 and criminal records.

The court heard Ms Rose told police that “fuck off is part of the common vernacular”, to which police responded “it’s not part of children’s vernacular” – implying kids were around.

In delivering judgment, His Honour said there was no evidence Ms Rose used the phrase “fuck off” when speaking to police – which may have amounted to offensive language.

He noted that whether the word “fuck” is part of a child’s vernacular “depends on the words that a child listens to from others”.

He remarked that phrases like “you fucking beauty” and “fucking hell” are unlikely to be held offensive in this day and age.

His Honour found that the phrase “fuck Fred Nile” was used to dismiss an argument against marriage equality, and was not sufficient to wound the feelings, arouse anger, resentment, disgust or outrage in the mind of a reasonable person.

He found all three defendants not guilty of the charge.

The Aftermath

After court, Mr Wright declared:

“This is a big win for free speech and the right to protest… the police have attempted to scare marriage equality activists out of speaking up against bigotry. They have failed.”

Ms Rose stated:

“… with marriage equality still banned by law, the homophobes haven't been defeated. We’ll keep protesting until we have our rights, and you can expect a few f-bombs along the way.”

Ms Hearn’s solicitor added that offensive language laws have:

“for too long been used as a social control applied disproportionately against marginalised and vulnerable people”.

It seems the NSW government may still have some way to go before completely silencing the voices of protesters.

The next marriage equality rally will be held on 26 November at Sydney Town Hall.

 

Defendants seeking justice and victims wanting closure are being left waiting as extensive court backlogs place extra pressure on our already struggling criminal justice system. 

It has been reported that a seventeen-year old complainant in a sexual assault case has been unable to attend school for 5 years, waiting for her alleged tormenter – her uncle – to be brought to justice and give her some closure. 

On the other side of the coin, defendants – many of whom ultimately have their charges withdrawn or thrown out of court – are increasingly being held behind bars for months or even years awaiting the finalisation of their cases.

Justice Delayed…

The NSW District Court is struggling to clear its backlog of cases. 

At the end of July this year, 2042 criminal trials and 1195 sentencing cases remained outstanding in the District Court – nearly double its caseload at the end of 2010, when there were 977 pending criminal trials and 722 sentencing matters.

Police Preferred Over Courts

Government funding to the NSW Police Force has risen significantly in recent years despite declining crime rates, but similar levels of extra funding have not been extended to our courts in spite of vastly increased caseloads.

Criminal Defence Barrister Phillip Boulten SC has criticised the state government’s failure to adequately funding courts, saying:

“[the] government has provided ample resources for police investigations … [and] the police have been very efficient in arresting people… [but] there hasn’t been the same level of resources applied to the justice system”.

Harsher bail laws have led to a sharp rise in people being ‘held on remand’; locked up while awaiting the outcome of their cases. Statistics released by The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) suggest that one-third of our state’s 12,550 inmates are  now on remand.  

Of concern is the fact that nearly 40% of all defendants held on remand in 2014 did not ultimately receive a prison sentence – indicating they were either innocent or should never have been behind bars in the first place. And locking people up is expensive – the average cost to taxpayers for keeping an adult in prison is $237.34 a day, and nearly $700 a day for each child.

No Compensation

Article 14(6) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) recognises a right to compensation for those who have been wrongfully convicted:

“when a person has by a final decision been convicted of a criminal offence and when subsequently his conviction has been reversed or he has been pardoned on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a miscarriage of justice, the person who has suffered punishment is entitled to compensation according to law”.

However, this right has not been recognised by Australian law. And unlike in many parts of the US, Australian jurisdictions do not have statutory schemes for providing compensation to those who are wrongly imprisoned.

This means that those who are accused of crimes and held behind bars for long periods of time, only to have the charges withdrawn or dismissed, are rarely able to achieve compensation – unless they can prove an abuse of process, malicious prosecution or other form of serious misconduct on the part of the prosecution
 

AFP

A NSW police officer has been sentenced to a 15-month section 9 good behaviour bond – which comes with a criminal conviction – over the assault of a man being held in custody at Dee Why police station on Anzac Day last year. The incident is yet another example of ongoing police brutality and abuse of powers in the state.  

Last Friday, Leading Senior Constable Shaun Moylan was found guilty of two assault charges in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court. The 41-year-old officer was captured on a CCTV camera violently pushing Mark Adamski twice in a charge cell. 

Mr Adamski was affected by alcohol when he was arrested hours earlier over an alleged domestic assault in Narrabeen. The 32-year-old – who owns a recruitment agency – was being held in the cell when he and Moylan had a heated verbal exchange. 

Evidence at the hearing

During the defended hearing, CCTV footage was played showing Moylan open the cell door and confront Adamski, before pushing him in the chest. The constable leaves, the two continue to argue and then Moylan re-enters the cell pushing Adamski once more, this time in the throat. 

The second push resulted in Adamski’s head slamming against the back of the cell wall. 

After the assault, Adamski pleaded with police to call an ambulance, but no medical attention was offered. On being released, Adamski was forced to catch a bus to Manly Hospital, where he was treated for injuries, which included a hematoma on the back of his head.

At the initial court hearing in May, Moylan claimed he was innocent, despite the evidence contained in the CCTV footage. 

His criminal defence barrister cross-examined Adamski to the effect that he had “downplayed” his role in the incident and “exaggerated” Moylan’s. 

However, other police officers on duty at the time backed up Adamski’s version of events.

Senior Constable Daniel Gill told the court that Moylan had used “significant” force and “cupped his hand” around Adamski’s throat during the second push. He also confirmed that Adamski had been requesting medical help, and that none was forthcoming. 

Another officer working at the station that night, Constable Brendon Kitchener, testified that the use of force had disturbed him to the point that he reported it to other colleagues. 

At a defended hearing in July, it came to light that Moylan had joined Constable Zoe Barrett at the station desk following the assault and remarked, “I shouldn't have gone in there.” 

Barrett said that Moylan, who was the acting supervisor at the time, went to the custody area to help another officer. She said she could hear loud noises coming from the “area and then it went quiet.” 

The officer also told the court that she looked up at a monitor screen and saw a man falling backwards in the cell with Moylan standing at the open door.  

On the following day, Constable Moylan – who’d been suspended from duties on full pay since July 2015 – claimed he was acting in self-defence and gave his version of the events. 

Moylan testified that on the night of the incident, Adamski had been yelling obscenities, so he decided “as a courtesy” to open the cell door to speak with him and calm him down. He claimed that this method had worked for him in the past.

He said that upon doing so, he immediately felt threatened, claiming that Adamski clenched a fist and said, “I will fucking have you.” At this point, the constable said he thought he was about to be attacked.

But last Friday at Downing Centre Local Court, Magistrate Susan McIntyre dismissed Moylan’s self-defence claim as “almost absurd.” She said the CCTV footage shows that Adamski didn’t move towards the constable “to any significant extent” and remained “well within the confines of the cell.” 

She found him guilty of the assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault.

Sentencing

During the ensuing sentencing hearing, officer Moylan's barrister submitted that his client had already paid a “heavy price” over the incident, and that any criminal record would impact on his future employment. He argued the constable should be given a Section 10, which would mean avoiding a criminal record. 

However, Magistrate McIntyre was unsympathetic, noting that the officer was “in a special position” and should not have abused his power. She sentenced him to a Section 9 bond, which carries a conviction.

As for Mark Adamski, he was found not guilty of all charges brought against him.

Police brutality

Of course, this is not the first case involving an abuse of powers by NSW police. 

There’s the high profile case of Jamie Jackson Reed, who was restrained by police at the 2013 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. In 2014, Magistrate Michael Barko found that police had used excessive force when apprehending the 18-year-old man. 

And just last month, English backpacker Liam Monte announced he was suing NSW police over an institutional-cover up of his alleged assault, which involvied an off-duty police officer on April 19 2013. After a slight altercation in a McDonald’s on George Street in Sydney’s CBD, several men followed Monte to the entrance of the restaurant and one, off-duty police officer Osvaldo Painemilla produced a badge and said he was under arrest. 

Believing the badge to be a fake, Monte grabbed it and left. Painemilla’s friends then pursued Monte up George Street and pulled him out of a taxi. A bus driver who witnessed the assault said the backpacker was struck about ten times in the face as he lay on the ground. 

Monte was taken to hospital suffering severe facial bruising and a suspected fractured eye socket. 

After being discharged from hospital, detectives from the Rocks police station arrived at Monte’s hostel and arrested him for stealing. 

On hearing the case in 2014, Magistrate Michael Barnes described it as an abuse of process. He concluded that police had brought the prosecution against Monte to "somehow negate the suggestion that the force applied” to him “was otherwise completely unjustifiable.”

Magistrate Barnes found the evidence supported the police charges of stealing the badge and gave Monte a Section 10, which means he escaped a criminal record.


 

A backpacker who was prosecuted for a minor offence after allegedly being bashed by a NSW police officer is now suing the Force, accusing it of an institutional cover-up over the failure to investigate or discipline an off-duty officer involved.

The trouble for Liam Monte started one Friday night in April 2013. He and some mates were eating at McDonalds on George Street in the Sydney CBD, larking around. It is understood the men were throwing French Fries, and that one of the fries landed on the shoulder of Dennis Schafer, who was there with an off-duty police officer named Osvaldo Painemilla, both of whom were intoxicated.

A dispute ensued and the two groups of men left the restaurant. Outside, Officer Painemilla produced his badge, saying he was a police officer and that Monte was under arrest.

Officer Painemilla later admitted in court to consuming about 16 alcoholic drinks that evening. Also in court, the officer claimed he was trying to calm the situation down, which was completely at odds with Monte and his friends’ version of the events, as well as those of independent witnesses, who stated that the officer was highly aggressive, and was yelling threats.

The officer then pulled out his badge, after which Monte said it was fake, before grabbing it, running up the street and getting into a taxi. 

Painemilla and his friends caught up with Monte, dragged him out of the taxi, through him to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked him while he was on the ground.

According to a statement from a bus driver who witnessed the assault, Monte was "punched approximately 10 times to the face as he lay on the ground".

Monte was taken to hospital by ambulance, suffering severe facial bruising and a suspected fractured eye socket.

Monte charged and prosecuted

Shortly after Monte was discharged from hospital, detectives from The Rocks police station in central Sydney arrived at his backpackers’ hostel, where they arrested and charged him with assaulting Officer Painemilla.

The case proceeded to a defended hearing in 2014, during which the Presiding Magistrate, Michael Barnes, described the prosecution as an abuse of process by police.

The Magistrate noted that police initially charged Monte with “assaulting an officer in execution of his duty”, but that charge was later withdrawn when independent witness statements made it abundantly clear that Monte did not assault anyone, but was the victim of a vicious and sustained assault by the drunk off-duty officer and his mates.

It was only then that police charged Monte with stealing the police badge.

The Magistrate noted that police had brought the prosecution in an attempt to "somehow negate the suggestion that the force applied to Monte was otherwise completely unjustifiable".

His Honour ultimately found that the facts supported the charge of stealing a badge, but did not convict Monte, instead giving him a Section 10 bond which means that he was found guilty but no criminal conviction was recorded against his name.

Proceedings against police

Monte is now suing the NSW Police Force for damages resulting from assault and battery, misfeasance in public office, unlawful imprisonment and collateral abuse of process.

His statement of claim argues that the Force is vicariously liable for Officer Painemilla's actions, and that police investigating the incident failed in their duties to fairly investigate the matter and charge those who assaulted him.

NSW Police are yet to file a defence in the case, although last month, lawyers acting for the Force applied to the NSW District Court for security of costs – asking that Monte be ordered to pay $60,000 upfront to cover police costs in the event that Monte loses the case. That application failed.

A date for the civil trial has not yet been set.

Jurors

Serving on a jury can be a rewarding experience, but more than that, it’s also a chance for any Australian citizen over the age of 18 to directly take part in the legal process. 

The role of the jury

The role of a jury is to hear evidence and then apply the law as directed by the judge, to decide if a person is guilty or not guilty of a particular crime they’ve been accused of. The jury’s decision is called a ‘verdict’. 

In New South Wales, juries do not participate in the sentencing process. 

If you are summoned, you must to attend court at a certain time on a certain date. A summons is a legal document so unless you have express permission not to partake, you need to attend court when you’re required to do so, or you may face a hefty fine. 

But even if you do attend court, you might not be chosen as part of a jury. And there are many reasons for this. Only a small portion of people who attend court for jury duty actually end up as part of a jury in a court room. 

The most recent statistics released by the Office of the NSW Sheriff are from the year 2014-2015. They suggest that 278,000 citizens were selected throughout the state to be on the jury roll, but only 58,000 were actually required to attend court. Of those, 7050 actually served on a jury.

Reasons for asking to be excused

In the same year, the following excuses were knocked-back:

  • “I need to look after my cat,” 
  • “I’m allergic to air conditioning” and 
  • “I’m scared of buses and trains and have no one to drive me to court”.

However, the legal system can be understanding if you have a pressing reason, such as you own your own business and are indispensable to its day-to-day operations, or if you work in the system itself (lawyers, judges, police and politicians are not permitted to serve on juries). 

If you attend court and realise you know the judge, one of the lawyers, the defendant, complainant or one of the witnesses, this is normally a valid reason for being excused.

People who are ineligible for jury duty include anyone who: 

  • has served time in prison in the previous 10 years, 
  • has been detained in a detention centre or other juvenile facility (excluding for a failure to pay a fine), or 
  • is currently bound by a court order that relates to a criminal charge or conviction; such as bail, a good behaviour bond, parole order, community service order, apprehended violence order or disqualification from driving. 

If you fall into one of those categories, you can write to the Sheriffs department asking to be excused from jury duty even before attending court.

Otherwise, you can inform the Sheriff at court about your reasons for requesting to be excused – which may be decided in court by the judge.

‘Exemption’ versus ‘excused’

Some people can apply for exemptions from jury duty. If you work in emergency services or are a full-time carer, a member of the clergy or live a very long way from any courthouse, you may apply for an exemption, which, if granted, means you will not be chosen for jury duty for a specified period of time. 

However, if you are chosen you will need to apply to be ‘excused’. This is different altogether, but illness, disability and work commitments, as well as pre-booked and paid for holidays may be valid reasons for being excused, so long as you can provide suitable evidence. Again, you may write to the Sheriffs department advising them of your reasons before attending court, or wait until you get to court to apply.

A change of address may also be a valid reason, especially if you are no longer in the state where you are required for jury duty. However, if you don’t keep your address details up to date and therefore don’t receive the summons, you may neverthless be fined. 

Jurors get paid 

It’s worth noting that jurors get paid for their services, and there are travel allowances in some circumstances, and meals provided too. 

The average trial in New South Wales is about 7 days long. If you’re summoned, then remember how important it is to partake in this civic duty, especially for the ongoing benefit of the system itself. 

Besides, it could be one of the most interesting experiences you’ll ever have. 

Jaywalking

In recent years, police have carried out several operations targeting jaywalking, including the ongoing ‘Operation Franklin’ in the Sydney CBD, which have resulted in over 10,000 infringement notices being issued to alleged jaywalkers and netted hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For those going to Downing Centre Court, police can often be seen on bicycles near the court complex waiting to nab unsuspecting pedestrians.

But what does the law say about crossing the road in NSW? And how can you avoid being fined?

Here’s a summary of the main rules:

Crossing a road at pedestrian lights

Regulation 231 of the NSW Road Rules 2014 says you can only start crossing at pedestrian lights (eg the red or green man) if the light is green.

If the light turns red, or flashing red, while you are already on the road, you must “not stay on the road for longer than necessary”.

The fine for disobeying this rule is currently $72, or a maximum of $2,200 if you choose to fight the case in court and lose.

Crossing a road at traffic lights

Regulation 232 says you can only start crossing the road at traffic lights – where there are no pedestrian lights – if the traffic lights are green or flashing yellow, or there is no red light showing.

If the traffic lights turn red or yellow while you are already on the road, you must not stay on the road for longer than necessary.

Crossing the road when the traffic light is red or yellow comes with a fine of $72, or up to $2,200 if you challenge the case in court and are unsuccessful.

Crossing the road on or near a crossing

Regulation 234 makes it an offence to cross a road within 20 metres of a crossing (eg 20 metres of where there are traffic or pedestrian lights) unless you are:

(a) crossing, or helping another pedestrian to cross, an area of the road between tram tracks and the far left side of the road to get on, or after getting off, a tram or public bus, or

(b) crossing to or from a safety zone, or

(c) crossing at an intersection with traffic lights and a pedestrians may cross diagonally sign, or

(d) crossing in a shared zone, or

(e) crossing a road, or a part of a road, from which vehicles are excluded, either permanently or temporarily.

If you are more than 20 metres from a crossing, you must not stay on the road longer than necessary.

Again, the offence comes with a fine of $72, or up to $2,200 if contested in court.

Causing a hazard or obstruction 

Regulation 236 makes it an offence to “cause a traffic hazard by moving into the path of a driver’ or “unreasonably obstruct[ing] the path or any driver or another pedestrian”.

The penalties are the same as the previous offences.

So, the bottom line is:

  • You can only start crossing a road at a pedestrian light if the ‘man’ is green,
  • You can only start crossing a road at traffic lights (where there are no pedestrian lights) if the lights are green or flashing yellow,
  • You are allowed to cross a road if you are more than 20 metres away from lights, 
  • You must get to the other side of the road in a timely manner, and
  • You must not cause a hazard or obstruction to drivers or other pedestrians.

 

Liar with crossed fingers

The perjury trial over the shooting of Sydney man Adam Salter continued this week, with the barrister for police officer Sergeant Sheree Bissett telling the court his client did not lie to the Police Integrity Commission.

Adam Salter was living in Lakemba, NSW in 2009 when police were called to the home by his father, who reported that his 36-year-old mentally ill son was stabbing himself. 

Present at the scene were four police officers who, it is alleged, later collaborated in fabricating a lie that would exonerate the shooter, Sergeant Bissett, for her deadly act. 

The court heard that when Adam walked towards the sink which had a knife, Bissett drew her gun and fired at his back, causing his death.

The court previously heard that the four officers – Sergeant Bissett, Constable Aaron Abela, Sergeant Emily Metcalfe and Senior Constable Leah Wilson – deliberately gave false evidence to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) over the events at the Salter home. 

Police Coverup

The officers were seen smoking and talking outside the Salters' home after the shooting, when they allegedly concocted their story. 

During the PIC inquiry, the officers gave statements which were significantly different to the consistent accounts given by the ambulance officers and Mr Salter’s father.

Sergeant Bissett claimed Constable Abela was "struggling" with Adam who had lunged towards him. 

Constable Abela’s version was different – that there was some contact with Adam, but it was "just an instantaneous reaction where my arm just came out to stop him". He then proceeded to state that he grabbed the Adam’s left arm in two places – just above the elbow with his right hand and just below the elbow with his left. 

Officer Wilson’s testimony was different again – that officer Abela placed his right hand on Adam’s shoulder before Bissett fired the fatal shot.

Officer Metcalfe’s evidence was different once again – that Abela was holding Adam around his upper torso when the shot was fired.

Due to these and other inconsistencies, the officers were charged with lying to the PIC.

Police Mishandle Mental Illness

This is not the first time Sydney police have been accused of mishandling a situation involving the imminent danger of a mentally ill person.

Other New South Wales police shootings include the killing of Elijah Holcombe, who was shot dead in Armidale the same year. 

Mr Holcombe was only 24 and a student at university when he was tracked down by plainclothes police officers who attempted to apprehend him because of reports that he was suffering a mental health breakdown. He fled to an alleyway where he was killed by the officers, who later claimed they were acting in self-defence.

Nor is this the first time police have been charged with perjury for lying about their behaviour on the job, or other forms of misconduct. In fact, 50 NSW police officers are currently facing serious criminal charges including sexual assault, child rape and domestic assault.

The trial over the shooting of Adam Salter continues. 

Mental Health Clinicians Now On Call in WA

Last year, the Western Australian police force announced a plan to "decriminalise" mental health by diverting those suffering from mental health conditions away from the criminal justice system.

Traditionally, police have been expected to deal with the complex issues surrounding mental health while carrying out their duty to protect the public and enforce the law. Police can face difficult situations with minimal training on how to deal with mentally ill people, and have been quick to resort to heavy-handed tactics – even deadly force.

With the number of call outs related to mental health doubling between 2007 to 2014, it is now more important than ever that the police receive the proper training and assistance required to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations. 

The WA initiative has seen $6.5 million diverted from existing budgets to provide mental health clinicians to work alongside police on the beat and on call-outs. 

Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said the program would allow for people to be clinically assessed and properly dealt with at the scene, hopefully keeping them away from the back of police vans. 

Last year the Victorian Government pledged to establish a similar program, targeted at providing urgent mental health support in the community while reducing pressure on the police force. The program aims to provide emergency care to those in a critical state due to mental illness. 

Police station

On 18th November 2009, 36-year-old mentally ill man Adam Salter was shot in the back by NSW Police Sergeant Sheree Bissett at his Lakemba home, dying as a result.

Four police officers had responded a short time earlier to a triple-zero call by Adam’s father, Adrian Salter, who reported that his son had been threatening to stab himself with a knife.

The four officers – Sergeant Bissett, Sergeant Emily Metcalfe, Senior Constable Leah Wilson, and Constable Aaron Abela – are currently on trial before a Judge-alone in Downing Centre District Court for allegedly giving false evidence to the 2012 Police Integrity Commission (PIC) inquiry into Adam’s death.

The District Court has heard evidence from Adrian Salter that at the time of the incident, his son was being treated by ambulance officer on the floor of the kitchen when he got to his feet and moved towards the sink where there was a knife.

"When Adam got to his feet, nobody stopped him. I didn't understand why there was a room full of trained people and nobody stopped him," Mr Salter said.

The concerned father rushed into the kitchen in order to stop his son from grabbing the knife.

"I did try to put my arms around him but he fended me off. I couldn't grab hold of him."

The father became tangled in cords and fell to the kitchen floor, before police shot his son in the back.

"I heard 'taser, taser' – I heard the words twice – and then I heard the bang”, he testified.

That evidence was consistent with his initial statement to police and the statements of the treating paramedics – but police gave different versions of the events.

Immediately after the shooting, officers Bissett and Metcalfe were seen talking to one another and smoking on the footpath opposite the Salters’ home, while officers Abela and Wilson were also talking to each other on the front porch.

Police Integrity Commission

During the PIC inquiry, the officers gave versions of events that were significantly different to the consistent accounts given by the ambulance officers and Mr Salter’s father.

Sergeant Bissett claimed Constable Abela was "struggling" with Adam who had lunged towards him. 

Constable Abela’s version was different – that there was some contact with Adam, but it was "just an instantaneous reaction where my arm just came out to stop him". He then proceeded to state that he grabbed the Adam’s left arm in two places – just above the elbow with his right hand and just below the elbow with his left. 

Officer Wilson’s testimony was different again – that officer Abela placed his right hand on Adam’s shoulder before Bissett fired the fatal shot.

Officer Metcalfe’s evidence was different once again – that Abela was holding Adam around his upper torso when the shot was fired.

Due to these and other inconsistencies, the officers were charged with lying to the PIC.

Police Cover-Up

The PIC was highly critical of the police investigation which followed, finding that the evidence of the ambulance officers was excluded or ignored in an attempt to prevent embarrassment to the police force and conceal Sergeant Bissett’s conduct.

The PIC recommended that veteran Homicide Detective Inspector Russell Oxford face disciplinary action over the way he handled the investigation, and that Inspector Matthew Hanlon and Detective Inspector Stephen Tedder also face action for their involvement in preparing misleading reports and documentation.

The Coroner described the police response as an ‘utter failure’, finding that “Police killed the person they were supposed to be helping,”

At Trial

In Court, Crown Prosecutor Nannette Williams highlighted the fact that the officers’ versions were both inconsistent with one another, and with the evidence of the other eye-witnesses at the scene.

She pointed out that the accused are all experienced police officers, that "[i]t is their job, their profession, to get evidence right," that they were all in close proximity to the incident and yet “in this important matter their accounts do not align."

She said it was obvious the officers “got their heads together” immediately after the incident and agreed to lie by saying the fatal shot was fired because Adam was a threat to officer Abela – although they did not get a chance to sort out the finer details of their lie.

She described Metcalfe's "deliberately vague" testimony as an attempt to avoid locking herself "into a version which may quickly be exposed as a lie".

"For a trained and experienced police officer, those words don't ring true," she told the Court.

Ms Williams also highlighted the "consistency of omi[tting]" any reference to Adam’s father’s presence inside the kitchen.

"Not one police officer put Mr Adrian Salter in the room because to do so would expose the lie within their evidence to the Police Integrity Commission that it was Constable Abela who had attempted to restrain Adam," she said.  

She stressed the fact that the father’s account was consistent with the ambulance officers who were present and witnessed the incident.

"The combination of that evidence clearly gives the lie to the police accounts," she submitted. 

Who You Gonna Call?

The accused are each represented by experienced criminal defence barristers, including Raymond Hood who attempted to counter the prosecution case by saying the incident was very quick, and that the officers cannot be expected to observe every detail.

The barristers cross-examined Adrian Salter at length, attempting to elicit inconsistencies in his evidence – but the best they could get was that Mr Salter was unsure of how many times the word “taser” was used or whether his son had been shot or tasered.

The trial continues before Justice Greg Woods

Protesters

It’s taken a year, but a Magistrate in Downing Centre Local Court has found in favour of protester Simone White, who was manhandled, arrested and falsely charged by Sydney police officers. 

The Magistrate also ordered police to pay Ms White’s legal costs, due to the improper nature of her arrest, the investigation and subsequent prosecution.

The Court heard that officers grabbed Ms White’s breasts and neck, then covered up their actions by deleting evidence, making up a false charge against her, lying under oath and attacking her in court. 

The Incident 

Simone White was one of hundreds of protesters rallying at an anti-Reclaim Australia protest in Martin Place last July. She said an officer groped her breasts in a jostle with the crowd and another grabbed her neck as they walked behind her, resulting in bruising. 

Ms White turned to take a photo of the officer who had grasped her breasts, and as she was doing so, she was manhandled and arrested by that officer, Senior Constable John Wasko. 

White was taken to a mobile police station where a female officer confiscated her phone, saying it was necessary to identify her, despite the fact she had already produced a bank card as identification.

When her phone was eventually returned, the photos of the officer who groped her breasts had been deleted.  

The arresting officer, Senior Constable Wasko, claimed Ms White assaulted him in the execution of his duty. He alleged that, as a line of police were shepherding protesters through Martin Place, Ms White turned back at him with her elbow up.

The police case against Ms White relied entirely on Senior Constable Wasko's claim, and was not supported by footage from CCTV cameras in Martin Place or the many police officers who were filming the rally.

CCTV tells a different story 

White’s legal team subpoenaed footage from the police, which showed her being pushed and shoved by Senior Constable Wasko as the protesters walked through Martin Place, but did not show her assaulting or attempting to assault him at all.

Ms White can also be seen holding a water bottle in one hand, which the Magistrate found made the allegation of raising her elbow at Senior Constable Wasko “inconsistent”. 

The footage also showed Ms White taking a photo of the officer on her phone, suggesting evidence was indeed deleted by police.

The Magistrate found that the "evidence strongly indicates" Ms White was indecently assaulted as she alleged.  Medical records also showed bruising on Ms White’s breasts. 

Despite the evidence, the police prosecutor repeatedly accused Ms White of lying.

Her barrister, Phillip Boulten, SC, told the court on Tuesday that police had "escaped any form of investigation for perverting the course of justice".

"The only reason why [the photo] would be deleted would be to make it more difficult for the complainant to say something in court," he said.

In handing down his judgement, Magistrate Geoffrey Bradd let police know of his dissatisfaction, finding they had investigated the case in “an unreasonable and improper manner,” and awarding Ms White $13,400 in legal costs.

Outside court, Ms White said she was relieved her legal battle was over. 

Her solicitor, Lydia Shelly, said: "This decision sends a very clear message to the police. It is not a criminal offence to protest nor is it an offence to film police if you are not hindering their duties. The NSW public expect more from NSW Police."

The NSW Police Force says it will review the circumstances surrounding the incident. The officers involved are yet to be reprimanded, and if the Force’s track record is anything to go by, it is unlikely they will be.

One of the men allegedly involved in a recent Kings Cross brawl during which six people were arrested says he will fight the charges against him and take legal action against NSW Police, whose tactics left him on crutches and unable to work. 

Nari Rossi-Murray was one of those arrested, although he is not the only one who believes police acted with ‘overwhelming force’. 

Police were patrolling the area, which, until the government’s ‘lock out laws’ came into effect, was notorious for drunken behaviour, when a fight broke out. 

Officers initially used capsicum spray to subdue the altercation, but bystanders who captured the incident on their mobile phones say police then began assaulting those involved.

Witnesses captured Mr Murray being kneed to the head at least three times just after saying “I haven’t done nothing”.  Murray says he will be using mobile phone video, photos and CCTV footage as evidence to defend charges brought against him, and to support his case against police. 

He says while he understands and respects that police have a job to do, their actions were ‘extreme’ in this instance. 

Police Brutality

The incident has bought the issue of police brutality into the spotlight once again, particularly the question of reasonable force when it comes to making an arrest.  

There are laws and guidelines police must follow when making an arrest; for example, section 231 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 says:

“A police officer or other person who exercises a power to arrest another person may use such force as is reasonably necessary to make the arrest or to prevent the escape of the person after arrest.”

The use of excessive force constitutes assault, whether exercised by police officers or anyone else. Heavy-handed tactics can also cause an incident to escalate, causing those being man-handled to use self-defensive actions in an attempt to repel the attack.

All six of those involved were arrested and taken to Kings Cross police station, where they were charged with various offences including resisting arrest, assaulting police, offensive language, offensive conduct and hindering police.

Action Against Police

Anyone who believes they have been wrongfully arrested, mistreated or assaulted by police can lodge a formal complaint through the Customer Assistance Office, providing as much information as possible. 

However, police are notorious for clearing their own of misconduct during internal ‘investigations’. Another option is to make a complaint to the NSW Ombudsman, however, he receives in excess of 3,000 complaints against police every year and is powerless to discipline, let alone prosecute police officers. 

This leaves the option of civil proceedings against police, which can be expensive and time-consuming; but those who have exhausted all other avenues may feel this is their only viable option.

Mr Murray and his alleged co-offenders are due to appear in Downing Centre Court on May 31.