Police officers have been accused of deliberately intimating a lawyer on his way to court and scaring him so badly he fled through the Magistrate’s exit.
The solicitor had been on his way to represent an outlaw motorcycle gang member in a case against NSW Police Strike Force Raptor – the elite bikie-fighting unit. The lawyer was so shaken that the hearing was adjourned.
The abuse of power was detailed in the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission’s report which was made public late on Friday.
The lawyer, a principal in his own criminal law firm, first noticed a police car driving past his house at 6.30am on May 28, 2019 – the day he was due in court to represent the bikie against Strike Force Raptor, the report said.
Being on good terms with local police in his country town, he waved – but they didn’t wave back.
At 7am he reversed out of his driveway onto the empty street and noticed police were following him.
They pulled him over less than 10 minutes away at a nearby Beaurepaires tyre shop, and identified themselves as being from Strike Force Raptor.
The Raptor officers asked for his drivers license – which he had forgotten.
On his way home to get his ID, the Raptor officers stopped him again to conduct a ‘roadworthiness check’ on his vehicle.
They repeatedly pulled the front seatbelt before claiming it was not retracting.
They then opened the bonnet and told him they could see an oil leak, then defected him for oil leaks, seat belt defects and window tinting, forcing him to walk home in his socks and thongs.+6
The lawyer’s client was an outlaw motorcycle gang member, and he was representing him in a case against Strike Force Raptor, an elite NSW Police unit set up to tackle the scourge of bikie crime. Pictured: Rebels bikies in Sydney, 2009 (stock image)
Rattled, he took a taxi to work – but the police followed his taxi, checking it after he arrived at work with their flashing lights on, the report said.
At 8.30am, his client arrived, telling him the police were ‘doing laps’ outside his office.
This worried the lawyer so much he took a back exit from his office to a solicitor friend who rang the regular police – but they said they could not do anything.
He was so shaken that when he appeared before the Magistrate to represent his client against Strike Force Raptor, she adjourned the matter.
When he left the courtroom, five to 10 Strike Force Raptor officers were waiting.
This intimidated the lawyer so much he fled the court by the Magistrate’s private exit, with her permission.
A group of between five and 10 Strike Force Raptor police were waiting outside court, scaring the lawyer so much that he left by the Magistrate’s private exit with her permission
He then told his client that he should not represent him anymore – and the client hired another lawyer, the report said.
Integrity Commissioner Lea Drake found that a senior Strike Force Raptor officer had ordered two other officers to ‘target, interact and harass’ the lawyer so that he did not make it to court, and also intimidated his female friend.
The Commissioner found that the officers’ conduct towards the lawyer was ‘disgraceful’, inventing breaches in order to target him.
‘When misused, targeting can create a hostile relationship between the police and citizens who would otherwise have no animosity towards the police,’ the Commissioner wrote.
‘The Commission is concerned about the sense of entitlement that can develop in an elite strike force and was demonstrated by this conduct.
‘Such limited strategies can become unrestrained and unlawful. If you are an elite, are you bound by the rule of law and the policies of the NSW Police Force or are you bigger, better, harder and more entitled?
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.’
The Commissioner wrote that while Strike Force Raptor had been successful in disrupting criminal activity, it could not be allowed to harass people.
‘However, unlawful conduct must not be condoned or covered up.’
Greens MP David Shoebridge was beside himself on reading the report and slammed the conduct within it late on Friday, summing up the story in an outraged Twitter thread.
‘Lawless,’ he wrote.
‘This is seriously lawless behaviour by a number of police acting in concert and it’s close to unbelievable …. We (will) not leave it here I can assure you. Seriously unbelievable.’
A spokesman for NSW Police said the release of the report had been ‘noted’ and its contents and recommendations would be ‘considered’.
Location: New Zealand
Source: DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA