Category Archives: police

Imagine if that were your experience of the police

Be thankful Victoria Police have changed since 1928:

According to Bob Haldane’s seminal text on the Victoria Police, The People’s Force, ”[Chief Commissioner Tom] Blamey was quick to side with capital against labour and quick to crush public protest. He issued a direction that any unemployed people marching through Melbourne and causing a breach of the peace were to be ‘hit over the head’.

It’s just a shame it’s taken eighty years for some of the more outrageous and disturbing consequences – like unionists shot at close range from behind – to be held up to the light.

Relief, and anger: it should never have gotten this far

As you’ve probably heard, there was a glorious victory for common sense in today’s – “today” in the sense of when it was given, but obviously not “today” in the sense of the law under which the case was prosecuted – abortion trial verdict:

A Cairns District Court jury took less than an hour to find Tegan Simone Leach, 21, and her partner Sergie Brennan not guilty of charges of procuring an abortion and supplying drugs to procure an abortion following a three-day trial.

We don’t have many of the formal human rights protections that people in other modern countries enjoy, so it’s a wonderful thing that juries are able to step in and save defendants from massively unjust results when the rest of the system fails.

Not that everyone agrees with that aspect of their role:

the Crown prosecutor sternly reminding the jury “you are not sitting in a court of morals”.

Prosecutor Michael Byrne, SC, told the jury he would be foolish to think the jurors did not hold personal views about abortion, but their job was to uphold the law and if they disagreed with it they should “make their views known at the ballot box”.

Yeah, ‘cos there’s been a recent referendum on abortion (and if there wasn’t, Ms Leach should’ve started a campaign for one before she dared make her decision), and because if the majority decided so, there’d be no problem with the state taking over a woman’s body.

Let’s all be thankful they rejected that submission. I wonder if even Mr Byrne is really all that regretful that they did, although his use of the term “lifestyle choice” makes me suspect, sadly, that perhaps he would.

If they’d returned a verdict of “guilty”, I wonder if Judge Everson would’ve had the power in Queensland to simply find the charges proven – and then dismiss them. If not, if that discretion does not exist in that jurisdiction, then that’s another reason to be thankful for juries.

But that’s not the only emotion many Australians, particularly women, will be feeling now – the other is anger. Anger that this young woman and her partner were put through these two years of hell in the first place. Anger that the law is still on the books; anger that the police investigated it and the prosecutors chose to pursue it; anger that the matter could not be struck out earlier. Let’s hope the law is changed urgently, and that in the meantime Queensland police and prosecutors recognise the futility of putting these charges before the courts. This must not happen again.

Relief and anger. Let’s make sure they don’t dissipate before they achieve a lasting change to this destructive Queensland law.

UPDATE: Check out the “lock this young woman up” side trying to pretend that they’re trying to protect women!

Keeping abortion in the criminal code she says, “Provides a thin veneer of protection for women who are being pressured into abortion and that would be gone if the pro-abortion lobby got their way.”

The only way to keep them safe is to put them on trial and send them to prison. Of course.

UPDATE #2: And John Birmingham eviscerates the Bligh government for its cowardice in the matter.

Some legal developments

See, after that heading, I could write anything I like under here and it wouldn’t matter, because everyone’s already clicked to the next post in their RSS reader. Well, screw those people. They’re missing out on some pretty darn interesting and important revelations, and what will undoubtedly be one of the most amusing, thrilling and also informative comment threads this site has ever seen.

Three things.

  • Another note about VLA’s new flawed “whole of job” proposal: the threshold below which a contested matter will not be aidable will be raised from a $750 fine to a 200 hour CBO. If you’re innocent but have been charged with a fairly serious matter at about the 150 hour CBO level, and you can’t afford a lawyer? Stiff, Legal Aid can’t help you. The point is to save $475,000, but the effect will be to increase the number of unrepresented cases being run to hearing, chewing up court time and resources (unrepresented litigants take more time because they don’t know what they’re doing), increase the number of appeals being run, and basically just condemn more people, poorer people, to a very one-sided hearing before the courts. Next time you see $475k being wasted by the State Government, remember that they could’ve spent that cash not throwing people to the wolves.

  • Crikey reports on the devastating situation in NSW (and it’s not much different here) with respect to the way the prison system simply does not know how to cope properly with mentally-ill people:

    Nearly half of all inmates in New South Wales have a mental illness, but there is a desperate shortage of beds in prison mental health units and decisions about their care are left in the hands of prison guards with little or no training in mental health.

    The result, according to a former senior assistant commissioner for Corrective Services NSW, is a punitive prison system and a growing population of unreformable criminals.

    Even those found not guilty of offences by reason of mental illness find themselves being put into the care of the prisons rather than receiving appropriate treatment.

  • Victoria’s looking at expanding the DNA database by taking samples from anyone found guilty of an indictable offence. What’s the problem? Well, there’s already a list of offences for which that power exists, covering all the relevant ones, so the question is – why are we adding to it? Which offences that the parliament originally felt could not be justified adding to the list are now being snuck in – and at a time when forensic services are already overstretched?

See? Devastatingly interesting. Those people who nicked off at the heading don’t know what they’re missing.

Scott Rush’s blood is partly on our hands

I agree with Terry Wright that this is appalling:

Indonesian prosecutors in the Scott Rush case have finally gone too far. Their fanatical insistence on sending Scott Rush to his death, is so inhumane, so completely unreasonable and so cruel that I am almost lost for words.

There’s very little that we as Australian citizens can do about Indonesia’s barbarous approach to criminal justice – the death penalty is bad enough, but applying it to non-violent crimes is obscene, let alone to offenders at the very bottom of the ladder – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make noise. And in this case there’s a very clear point to be made, locally, because it was our police, the police representing us, the Australian community, who handed Mr Rush over to the Indonesians to be subject to this perversion of justice.

And there is something we can usefully agitate for (or, more precisely, against) there. The Commonwealth Government should make it clear to Indonesia that it will not co-operate with them (or any nation with a similar approach) on drug-related matters while they apply the death penalty. Full stop. I don’t think we should co-operate with them while they impose extreme terms of imprisonment, either – that 20 years for Corby for cannabis importation is ridiculous – but at the very least, the death penalty is something that is opposed by all (or almost all) our representatives in parliament. Its agents, the AFP, should not be involved with something so contrary to our democratically-expressed values.

And it is worth making noise about this. If we don’t, we’re complicit when the next AFP investigation hands some poor stupid young Australian over for this brutality. We might not be able to save Scott Rush, but we can certainly demand assurances that we won’t be party to such a travesty again.

Any police forces with tasers that *don’t* abuse them?

We’ve had countless serious examples of tasers being misused overseas, in Queensland and now Western Australia:

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has described vision of an unarmed man being tasered 13 times as damaging for the reputation of the state’s police force.

Remember, these things can be fatal. The idea is for them to be used only as nonlethal alternatives for situations in which a firearm would’ve been necessary, but the reality is that police use them as easy compliance devices – you do what we say, or you suffer excruciating pain. (Unprincipled police use O/C spray the same way.)

But the question remains: what precisely is WA going to do to stop this happening in future? Will it work? Is there any jurisdiction in which police are equipped with tasers where they don’t use them in inappropriate situations? If not, why are we so determined to waste millions of taxpayers’ dollars on the things? (Particularly when we’re busy cutting funding to necessary services.)

UPDATE 5/10: Oh, and a pregnant woman was tased up to eight times in WA.

And then, hours after this post went up, police tased a man to death in Sydney this morning.

Meanwhile, police continue to trial tasers in regional Victoria…

Talking of caving on Miranda…

It looks like the White House may be looking at taking away one of the most basic protections afforded to people being arrested by the state – Miranda rights – in case they are applied to BAD PEOPLE.

As a commenter notes:

So if I have a neighbor who complains my stereo is too loud, I can now get him SWAT’ed and/or have his Miranda rights stripped from him just by saying he’s a drug dealing terrorist?

Good to know. Good to know.

Seriously, there is something wrong with a country where supporting basic human rights is now seen as a thing of which to be ashamed. In the far-rightosphere at the moment you’ve got people who claim to be afraid that their government is becoming tyrannical actively demanding that it take away their hard-won civil rights. It’s difficult to fathom what is going on in their minds.

Then again, they’ve also tried to turn “empathy” and “social justice” into dirty words, so I don’t know why I’m surprised.

UPDATE: And in further “they have no shame” news from the US, check out John McCain’s latest xenophobia-baiting campaign advertisment. Marvel at how easily he slips “home invasions” and “murders” into his list of things to blame on “illegals”.

AND ELSEWHERE: Turns out that that “you scare me” anti-Obama email forward really is by former Proctor & Gamble VP Lou Pritchett. No, it wasn’t written by a home-bound Glenn Beck acolyte – it was actually written by someone who knows perfectly well what utter garbage it’s spouting. The wingnuts love the thing – if you’ve got a strong stomach and a firm, bullshit-proof constitution, you might find it good for a laugh. A bitter, ironic laugh.

UPDATE (12/5): And Fox News refuses to run an advertisement by veterans opposing US reliance on foreign oil. I’m sure that decision had nothing whatsoever to do with the Saudi prince who owns a 7% share of Newscorp.

ON THAT: Where oil comes from.

Reasonable force

Clearly, that family pet needed to be shot (in front of a seven-year-old) to keep America safe from young men smoking marijuana:

Hooray for the “War on Drugs”.

Expect to see this same scene repeated in the coming years on behalf of the music and film corporations.

SCAPEGOAT FOUND

The Herald Sun is really on to something with this:


How can you eat while our beds are burning? (Caption would work better if it was Peter Garrett’s fault somehow)

But these fearless rabble rousers don’t go far enough. Did you know that while she was police commissioner Christine Nixon actually went home at night and slept WHILE CRIMES WERE BEING COMMITTED? That she would sometimes take time out of crime fighting to go to the bathroom? That she wasted precious seconds each day talking to her husband?

Some leader! She shouldn’t just be sacked. She should be shot out of a cannon into the sun. Only then will the bushfire gods be appeased.

UPDATE (9/3): A tip in Friday’s Crikey rumours section suggests a motivation for the News Ltd attack:

Don’t you get it with Christine Nixon? She is the centrepiece, with Janet Calvert Jones, of the Bruce Guthrie versus News Limited case. It is going to court, if Guthrie has his way. They are setting out to destroy her authoritative leadership image before she squeezes into the witness chair. This vilification (such as the photo in The Australian yesterday) will go on for days, if not weeks.

I’m not sure why Christine Nixon’s credibility has anything to do with Bruce Guthrie’s case, but if true that’d be disturbing evidence of how News Ltd is happy to abuse its power for its own gain.

Dobber preparing to waste police time to spite political opponents

Saw an interesting tweet from some old News Ltd hack yesterday, in which she seemed to make some kind of threats to people on the internet who would dare discuss issues of copyright and piracy:

@overingtonc so, vibrant, creative media companies are going after individual losers who steal their products. thinking of who to dob in (drums fingers)

@overingtonc How To Catch A Thief (Part Two). You wouldn’t want to have references to bit-torrents in your blog history these days, would you? #$1.5m

Ignoring the absurdity of the last part – bit-torrent is a perfectly legal file transfer technology, and discussing it is not a crime – it’s a nice little effort at intimidation for those who would dare argue against corporate misuse of copyright, isn’t it?

Have we really degenerated to the point as a country where someone writing on a blog and criticising something like the extreme and anti-public copyright regime our government has adopted at the behest of US-based media companies like Caroline’s employer, might find themselves “dobbed in” and made a target for some sort of police raid? Would it matter that they did not have any “pirated” material at all, once their house had been trampled through and their computers confiscated for the duration of the search? More importantly, would there be a consequence for the spiteful hack who wasted police time and resources for a personal vendetta, or would she be free to use the technique against someone else with whom she had a political argument?

Are the police there to fight crime, or are they a tool for the corporate copyright lobby (and its media arm) to harass those who argue against them?

Let’s hope, for the sake of whoever Caroline has in mind, that authorities have more common sense than she does.

No more getting other countries to do it for us

Good news about an Australian Attorney General actually standing up for the country’s laws:

THE country’s first legal officer has made a bid to ensure Australia’s policy of opposition to the death penalty is reflected in law enforcement cooperation with other countries.

Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, announced a new policy to govern law enforcement cooperation with countries that may apply the death penalty.

McClelland and O’Connor announced that new Australian Federal Police guidelines governing police-to-police assistance in possible death penalty cases would take effect from December last year.

No more (well, much less, anyway) “we can’t execute you – but they can” trickery by authorities. About time.