A report has determined that NSW Police officers targeted a bikie's criminal lawyer with a campaign of behaviour to stalk/intimidate him.
The solicitor was harassed on his way to court, at his office and even at Court to such a degree that the Magistrate allowed him to flee through her personal exit.
The offending officers were from the infamous NSW Police Strike Force Raptor - the elite bikie-fighting unit.
But despite the findings of the report, no officers have been charged with any offence and they do not appear to have suffered any reprimands.
The unnamed solicitor, who was an experienced criminal lawyer, was due to appear in court on 28 May 2019 to represent a bikie against officers from Strike Force Raptor.
Police had made a request to give their evidence by Audio-Visual Link, but the lawyer had refused this and required them to attend the regional town in person.
At 6:30am that day the criminal defence solicitor saw a police car driving past his house at 6.30am. The lawyer told the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) that he was on good terms with local police in his country town so he waved at officers in the vehicle - but they didn't wave back.
Unbeknownst to him, a senior sergeant in Strike Force Raptor had instructed one of the officers to ensure the solicitor "doesn't make it to court".
At 7am he drove away from his home and immediately noticed that police were following him. They stopped him less than 10 minutes away at a nearby Beaurepaires tyre shop, and identified themselves as being from Strike Force Raptor.
The officers asked him for his driver license, which he did not have with him. On his way home to get his licence, the Raptor officers again stopped him to conduct a 'roadworthiness check' on his vehicle.
They pulled the front seatbelt a number of times, claiming it was not retracting. Next, they opened the bonnet and told him they could see an oil leak, which they defected him for along with seat belt defects and window tinting.
This forced the solicitor to walk home in his socks and thongs. A mechanic later inspected the car and found it had no defects.
Rattled by the experience, he took a taxi to work - but the police would not relent, following the taxi and checking it after he arrived at work with their flashing lights on.
At 8:30am, his client arrived at his office and told him that a police vehicle was doing laps outside his office.
The criminal defence lawyer became so concerned that he took a back exit from his office to a solicitor friend who phoned the regular police - but they said they could not do anything.
Intimidation Continues at Court
When he appeared at Court later that day, the criminal lawyer was so shaken he made an application to adjourn the Hearing, which the Magistrate granted.
When he attempted to leave the courtroom, five to ten Strike Force Raptor officers were waiting outside. The criminal defence solicitor was so scared that he asked the Magistrate if he could use her private exit to escape the courthouse, which she allowed.
Following this he told his bikie client that he should stop acting for him. The client was forced to retain another lawyer.
Strike Force Raptor Confronted Over Stalk/Intimidate Charges
A Detective Chief Inspector also gave evidence at the inquiry. He said that he first learned about the targeting of the solicitor when a local police officer called to ask him about it.
Following this, the Detective called the sergeant involved - given the pseudonym Officer MON5 - who said words to the effect, "if he's going to get us all up there, then he can get targeted with the bikies".
This was understood to be a reference to the solicitor's refusal to allow Police to give their evidence by AVL. The report detailed that the Detective's "understanding was that Officer MON5 had instructed Officers MON3 and MON4 to interact with [the solicitor], and that they had issued [the solicitor] with relatively trivial traffic offences."
"This concerned him because in his view [the solicitor] should not have been targeted."
When Officer MON5 returned from the regional town, the Detective asked him, "what, are you going to attack a Magistrate next because you lose a court matter?"
He explained to the Strike Force Raptor officer that a criminal lawyer is "a part of the judicial system" and is not to be targeted. However, he was not convinced that officer understood, so kept "pushing the point until I got it through".
"Soon after this incident, he gathered Strike Force Raptor officers together for a meeting, including Officer MON5, to explain why solicitors are not to be targeted," he told the commission.
Stalk/Intimidate Ordered by Senior Police
Integrity Commissioner Lea Drake made findings that a senior Strike Force Raptor officer ordered two other officers to "target, interact and harass" the criminal defence solicitor. She also found the motive behind this was so that he did not make it to court.
Commissioner Drake said it was "deliberate, deceitful and malicious harassment" because the criminal lawyer refused a request for officers to give their court evidence by video-link. IT was also found to be "serious misconduct" carried out for no legitimate policing purpose.
The LECC report labelled the conduct of Police as "disgraceful", and the invention of breaches in order to target him could, "create a hostile relationship between the police and citizens who would otherwise have no animosity towards the police. The Commission is concerned about the sense of entitlement that can develop in an elite strike force and was demonstrated by this conduct."
And further, that "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."
Politician Speaks Out
Greens MP David Shoebridge commented on the report and slammed the conduct of Strike Force Raptor officers. He labelled the behaviour of police "lawless".
Greens MP David Shoebridge lamented the lack of charges
"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".
The lawyer at the centre of the ordeal was described by the LECC as "a pillar of the community". He had never been involved in any criminal activity and was just doing his job. It was recommended that senior police contact him to apologise "as soon as possible".
No officers have been charged over the incident and there is no indication that charges will be laid.
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