The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission has revealed that a now retired senior police officer directed officers to intimidate a defence lawyer, representing a client in a case against Strike Force Raptor.
The lawyer was representing an accused person alleged to be a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang and charged by police from Strike Force Raptor with five animal cruelty charges.
The matter was listed in the Local Court on the 28th of May 2019.
The criminal lawyer first noticed police on the same day when a car drove past his house.
As he was well acquainted and had an ‘extremely good’ relationship with the local police he waved to the car, however there was no wave back and he did not recognise the officers.
At about 7:00am, he reversed out of his driveway onto the empty street and noticed police were following him.
Upon arrival at a nearby Beaurepaires tyre shop, police pulled him over and identified themselves as being from Strike Force Raptor.
The officer approached him and asked to see his driver’s licence because he had not indicated when he reversed from the driveway.
The man did not have his licence on him as he had left home in a hurry, and he was issued with two infringement notices.
He recalls remarking: “oh, I’m against you guys today,”
The officers replied that they did not know that.
He decided to go home straight away, feeling uneasy as neither of the officers involved were required to attend Court that day for cross examination.
On his way home from Beaurepaires, he was stopped again by the police officers.
They informed him that they had forgotten to conduct a roadworthiness check on his vehicle.
He was issued defect notices for faults relating to oil leaks, seat belt defects and window tinting.
The defence lawyers’ partner who was present at the time alleges the officer quipped: “…that’s cruelty to animals and bad for the environment”.
However, as he “had many years of experience with motor vehicles” he claimed that “if there was an oil leak he would have been able to recognise it”.
He decided to take a taxi to work, and that same police vehicle followed and stopped the taxi too.
He asked the police officers if they needed him, and they said no. He then saw the officers conduct a check on the taxi.
After arriving at his office, he was informed by his client who arrived a short time after, that there was a police vehicle ‘doing laps’ outside.
When he appeared before the Local Court in his client’s matter, he informed the magistrate what had happened to him that morning and sought an adjournment.
This was granted by the Magistrate as “she could see that I was shaken up”.
As he left the court between five and ten Strike Force Raptor officers were outside. The lawyer was so intimidated that he went back inside the court and asked the magistrate if he could exit through the rear door.
He also understands that his client was searched outside court that day.
Subsequently, the lawyer informed his client that he could not act for him due to this.
The next day, police defected the lawyer’s motorcycle which he was riding because his car was off the road due to earlier police action.
“End result is no one has been charged with attempting to pervert the course justice, intimidation, or anything (other than the solicitor who paid one of the fines). This is seriously lawless behaviour by a number of police acting in concert and it’s close to unbelievable.” summarised David Shoebridge, NSW Greens MP.
Such abuse of power was detailed in the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission’s report which was made public late on Friday.
The details are not disputed by the officers involved, even stating in their own evidence that they had been taken to the town to ‘target’ the criminal lawyer.
“By “target” he understood that he was to observe [the lawyer] driving and to stop and issue him with tickets if he committed any offences. This included inspecting a vehicle for defects. This is one of the tactics used in targeting a person and he was good at that” the LECC explained.
Before the LECC, the officer conceded that: “it was not permissible to target a solicitor who was representing an outlaw motorcycle gang member.”
Officers also provided evidence that after the lawyer had denied the request for an officer on restricted duties to give evidence via an audio-visual link, that the officer in charge of the matter stated: “I want all of Raptor up there.”
“The task of these officers is to enforce the law. If the unlawful conduct engaged in by these officers is allowed to continue and be condoned because of some imagined higher purpose, there can be no good to come from it for the people of New South Wales.”stated the LECC.
The Commission also noted that a reorganisation of Strike Force Raptor had recently been announced and hoped the new Commander would consider all of the issues outlined in the report.
The LECC is one of the main police accountability bodies in NSW, and its role is to detect, investigate and expose misconduct and maladministration within the NSW Police Force and the NSW Crime Commission.
However, the NSW government has recently ordered that the organisation must find significant savings of $3.3 million within its already chronically underfunded budget.
“Sadly the easiest way to stymie those who root out corruption is to tie their investigative hands behind their backs,” commented Labor’s Treasury spokesman Walt Secord.
Perverting the course of justice is a criminal offence carrying up to 14-years imprisonment prescribed by section 319 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). The courts take this crime very seriously. perverting the course of justice is defined as obstructing, preventing or defeating the course of justice or the administration of the law.
To be guilty of perverting the course of justice, the evidence must be able to prove in court beyond reasonable doubt that, the accused person did something or omitted to do something with the intent of perverting the course of justice.
Defences to Perverting the Course of Justice
Any one or more of the following is a defence to a charge of perverting the course of justice:
- The accused did not know that there were court proceedings on foot.
- Mental illness defences.
- Due to state of intoxication, the accused was incapable of forming the requisite intent required to commit this offence.
- Duress or necessity.