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Australia Footage shows serving police officer assaulting Indigenous man in custody at Goulburn Police Station

12:56  21 october  2020
12:56  21 october  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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A serving New South Wales Police officer has been convicted of assaulting an Indigenous man in his custody in a series of events captured on police cameras.

7.30 has obtained footage of the assaults, captured from multiple angles, which appears to show Senior Constable Jeames Iain Murray propelling then-18-year-old Indigenous man Patrick Little's head into a wall, and then throwing him at a cell door.

On Tuesday at Goulburn Local Court, Magistrate Susan McGowan found Murray guilty of two counts of common assault. He was fined a total of $3,500 and had a conviction recorded.

The case raises significant concerns about how NSW Police manages criminal allegations against officers. 7.30 can also reveal that Murray has continued to serve at Goulburn Police Station on "restricted duties" since he was charged more than a year ago.

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The charges arose from an internal police investigation into the incident following a complaint.

On January 12, 2019, Little was fighting with his cousin outside a club in Goulburn when Murray and another police officer arrived. Little was charged and pleaded guilty to affray over that incident.

The court heard he was aggressive towards police initially but was co-operative when he was placed into the back of the police wagon.

After a short ride to the police station, Little is seen in the footage walking out of the police van.

The footage then appears to show Murray propelling him into a wall, placing him in a headlock and then throwing him into a custody cell door.

Little says at the end of the footage: "You've just lost your job."

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'No circumstance where this was warranted,' says magistrate

Murray pleaded not guilty to both charges, and maintained throughout the hearing at Goulburn Local Court that his actions were lawful and proportionate.

He said that while the footage did not look good, it did not tell the whole story, and that there was ongoing resistance and violence from Little.

Magistrate McGowan found that the explanation he gave about the events in the footage was "clearly inconsistent" with what was depicted in the bodycam and CCTV footage.

The shift supervisor, Sergeant Jeff Morgan, said in a statement tendered in the proceedings that after the incident Murray told him: "I think I might have stuffed up."

Magistrate McGowan said in her judgment on Tuesday: "He did stuff up that evening, and I think he knew it."

Murray's lawyer said a conviction should not be recorded, on account of the far-reaching impacts it would have on him, telling the court: "It's the elephant in the room that he's going to be looking for a new career."

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Magistrate McGowan found that the seriousness of the assaults and the position of trust Murray was in warranted a conviction being recorded.

"He was the adult and unfortunately he reacted in a way that was not appropriate, as I've found," she said.

She said Little's behaviour was irritating, but said that "he was only 18 at the time, smaller than the constable". She found that "there's no circumstance where this was warranted".

"I do recognise the difficulties of modern-day policing. But modern-day policing has to step up," she said.

'Tremendously confronting'

The assault findings against Murray also highlight further concerns over how police officers interact with Indigenous Australians.

Little was in police custody at the time of the assaults. His lawyer Michael Lalor told 7.30 that the experience of the trial had been traumatic for his client.

"Since his arrest in January 2019 he's been through the criminal justice system as a victim of the system, he's had to live, as many victims do, with the effect of going through court proceedings," he said.

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"It was tremendously confronting. It was the first time that he'd seen that footage. His family were in court.

"As any victim in a court proceeding would know, it's a traumatic experience having to give evidence in court in relation to an assault that's been perpetrated against them".

The case also raises concerns about how NSW Police manage criminal allegations against officers.

Murray was charged in October 2019 and remains a serving police officer at Goulburn Police Station.

"I just think it's outrageous. What does this say about accountability for police misconduct?" Karly Warner, the CEO of the NSW and ACT Aboriginal Legal Service, said.

A NSW Police spokeswoman said: "The officer remains on restricted duties; his employment status is currently under review."

Ms Warner said cases like this were the tip of the iceberg, and that they undermined trust and confidence between the police and the public.

"I think anyone who watches this footage would agree that it's really horrific," she said.

"As much as of course this is not something that's surprising, it still is really horrifying. It really cuts quite deep because it's the people that are meant to serve and protect you."

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller declined an interview request with 7.30.

"This matter relates to an incident in January 2019 that has now been dealt with in court. The officer's employment status is under review," a spokeswoman said.

The chief commissioner of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC), Reg Blanch, said in a statement that the oversight agency had been notified about the allegations by NSW Police.

He said the LECC had requested a report from NSW Police to consider what further action might be warranted.

Watch this story tonight on 7.30.

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