Friday, May 7, 2010

Down-under justice?

Back when I was a Judge I would occasionally go out on patrol with the SAPD.  It gave me an enormous appreciation of what an officer faces out on the streets.

Perhaps this Magistrate should do the same.  But having been arrested for drink-driving (drink-driving??!!) by the police back in 2008 may color (colour in Australia) her perceptions.

You Ladies and Gentlemen of the NSW Police Force have my support and prayers.

Calling police 'f---ing pigs' not offensive: O'Shane

The NSW Police Association has called for magistrates and judges "to spend some time on the beat to see what police deal with" after a controversial magistrate dismissed charges against a man who allegedly called two officers "f---ing pigs".

On March 29, magistrate Pat O'Shane dismissed charges laid against Andrew John Armstrong that he assaulted police, resisted arrest and behaved in an offensive manner on June 9 last year.

The decision has outraged the NSW Police Association, which says that modern-day magistrates are "out of touch".
The Manly Daily reported that police allege Mr Armstrong was angry about a lack of public transport just after 1am and stood in the middle of Belgrave Street, Manly, and encouraged a drunken crowd to join him.

The Daily reported that the crowd then crowded a police vehicle.

Constable Scott William told the court: "People were surrounding the police vehicle. One person tried to open the rear of the cage of the police vehicle ... they were yelling, they had their cameras out recording. I was feeling like we were being surrounded and I was feeling like if the crowd was escalate [sic], we could be set upon in the vehicle."

Police took Mr Armstrong from the road forcibly before releasing him a short time later. Police allege it was then that the accused became aggressive and wrestled with police.

Ms O'Shane eventually dismissed all the charges against Mr Armstrong, telling one constable he had "coloured" his evidence.

She also found that it was not offensive conduct for Mr Armstrong to be standing in the roadway.

"These officers come to court and tell the court ... and have the court accept that this person then attacked Constable [Daniel] Ayling, when all they were trying to do was re-release him, but it is at this point of re-releasing him that they ask him for identification," the Daily reported Ms O'Shane as telling the court.
"Frankly the court takes the view that it is a total fabrication and does not describe the events that occurred."

NSW Police Association vice-president Scott Weber said the ruling was "disrespectful" and "judges are continually showing police no support".

"Any police officer in court is bound to offer a true and correct version [and] it is very disrespectful that these matters occur," he said.
 "We find it hard to understand how decisions like this can be made ... it just shows a lack of respect for police officers."

Mr Weber said the case was especially difficult to accept given the problems with alcohol-related violence in Manly.
Look, it's disheartening especially considering all the alcohol issues in Manly ... resources are over-stretched with assaults ... and there is just no support from some magistrates," he said.
"Judges and magistrates need to get out on the beat and see what police have to deal with."

He said police would appeal against the ruling.

A spokeswoman for acting Police Minister Tony Kelly said police "work hard to keep the community safe, and officers are entitled to people's respect".

A spokesman for Attorney-General John Hatzistergos could not comment on whether an investigation would be launched into the case, but confirmed a transcript had been ordered.

This case follows another in which a student was found not guilty of offensive language after he called a police officer a "prick".

The Daily reported that Ms O'Shane also hit out at the South Australian judicial system after charges against Mr Armstrong, dating back 20 years, had not been expunged.

"Why is that record not expunged? Don't they do that in South Australia? Mind you, they close public courts in South Australia at the drop of a hat," she said.

"They drown university lecturers for being homosexual, and then, of course, they have had Snowtown. So they are a bit different than the rest of Australia."

Ms O'Shane is no stranger to controversy after she was found guilty of drink-driving in 2008.

She has also been the centre of several controversial rulings, involving assaults and abuse against police.