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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
NSW Police Force ramp up secrecy says News Corp, civil liberty folks
Mood:  not sure
Topic: nsw govt

Back on 27th August 2008 we took a call from Chris Merritt. It went something like this:

'Hi, yeah I know your name you're a senior journalist, legal editor with The Australian, used to write for the Fin Review.

Sure I have Oliver's number, I don't want to cramp your style.'

This was all in response to this briefing I sent to the acting editor of The Australian Media Section here in this email string about a civil liberties/right to know/citizen journalism situation involving NSW Police:

Sent: Monday, August 25, 2008 12:43 PM
Subject: as discussed, for Lara Acting Editor The Media

Oliver who had his charge dismissed is email at far bottom in the string. Then next back from there is my response to him, then first below is my package to the civil liberties types making out the pattern of 4 different cases I'm aware of brazen police over reaching (even when they have good cause it seems for those arrested same time as my guy Oliver Hopes.)
The hook for the Right To Know folks probably is the incredible invitation from the Police hierarchy as per articles below) for citizens to get involved in citizen reportage (actually dobbing - just not on the coppers!) as below. 
I can't let you have the letter I wrote to the Redferm Command without Oliver's permission due to legal confidentiality as former client (suggesting just drop the charges/it's a waste of time - diplomatically leaving out that it could also result in ....).
But I can tell you the policeman who gave dubious if not outright dishonest evidence and issued the Court Attendance Notice dated 26 May 2008 was Constable ..... Command.
The charge was "Hinder police". It was dismissed last Friday 22 August 2008.
Yours truly
Thomas McLoughlin (solicitor in NSW restricted certificate)
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, August 25, 2008 10:21 AM
Subject: in confidence, Oliver Hopes hinder police case dismissed in Local Court last Friday! Damn good.

I refer to previous correspondence about pro bono case, which ended up with Slater & Gordon on a fee basis. Also copy to civil rights campaigner Kristian Bolwell of the Fire Brigade Union, nsw solicitor.
Barrister was Mr Crawford Fish apparently. (Bragging rights here: Barrister apparently said my letter to police to drop the charge was "very good". Too bad they didn't - wasted court's time and lost the case. Good show all round by defence team.)
There is definitely a pattern of behaviour going on here by local Sydney police to avoid reportage: See also Matt Khoury story in The Media (bible of the media industry) in The Australian 2 months back as linked below. There was another fairly high profile in the Sydney Morning Herald pre World Youth Day too:
with this extract posted Sunday 13 July 08:

Picture: Saturday 12th July 2008, 10am. The bonhomie was mixed with the heavy security in the tunnel under Central Station . The plods and pseudo plods really didn't like me passing my card to this coloured gent. Nor did they appreciate me standing 10 paces away, nor did they appreciate me taking a picture of them from 40 paces away, and indeed the short blonde copper (Constable Phillips, City Crime - Commuter) made it her business to stalk over to me 40 paces away and officially ordered me to leave the area. "On what legal basis?" I asked and  "Because you don't want a witness? Is that what you are saying?". "Because you are intimidating" came the smooth practised reply. So there you have it - taking a picture of police in the course of their duty is "intimidating".  All under the flag pictured above of our fair democracy you understand. 


Nor is this the first time local inner Sydney cops have tried these tactics over recording of their police work. We are well aware, as is the ABC, of a case yet to be heard in court regarding police confiscation of a camera phone from a witness to a brawl outside a local inner city pub earlier this year, who we understand was then ordered to delete the footage in a police cell while being stood over by two local policemen.


Very very ironic given these two reports here exhorting exactly this kind of citizen media:

As a riposte we told one of the security guards about our readersip figures to which he said with contempt "You only see one side of life." Well actually we did see the aggressive drunk the night before and were glad for the security being present then. What worries us is fare evasion (not that we know the facts) leading to more serious charges for a public transport service that should be near to free anyway on public policy grounds.

Yours truly
Tom McLoughlin, editor www.sydneyalternativemedia.com/blog tel 0410 558838,
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, August 25, 2008 8:55 AM
Subject: yeah! you earned it, fortune favours the brave, smart, honest Re:

Hey Olli,
this is great stuff having your charge of hinder police dismissed last Friday. I rang and spoke to your mother earlier this morning sort of by coincidence as I found a story in the press here on the weekend doing my catchup, which is a BIG echo of your experience, and remembered you were about due for your hearing.:
And you know about my experience a month back too during the start of World Youth Day reporting/observing an arrest at Central Railway.
I'm so pleased you kept your nerve, got the help you needed, and have got the charge dismissed, and your mum got a barrister too and you got the result you deserved. You deserved to get costs I think, only fly in the soup.
I would love to do a report on my micro news website anytime. And ....
Kind regards,
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, August 24, 2008 10:18 PM

hey tom, we won the case on friday. we didnt get awarded costs but atleast i dont have a criminal record. thanks again for all your help. many of the things you told me .... helped alot. are you taking on coca-cola? sounds like a david and goliath battle. how were they so rough to you? hope things are well. olli.


[For those eagle eyed you may be wondering why this writer didn't progress the case himself - the reason being after intial correspondence and first appearance our principal solicitor chucked in his practising certificate (or something) end of 07-08 financial year and we couldn't act unsupervised past 30 June 08, hence Slater's took on the case as house lawyer for the family's employer. We remain an out of work 'junior' lawyer though under s.63 of the Land & Env Court Act 1979 we can do pro bono as a court agent in that jurisdiction.]

All this resulted in this article by Chris Merritt here next day 28th August 2008 in The Media section of The Australian in terms of right to know agenda, even though google lists it as Sept 1st for some reason: 

28 Aug 08 Call to reform police powers | The Australian

Chris Merritt, Legal Affairs editor | August 28, 2008

CIVIL libertarians have called for reform of police powers after a Sydney art student was arrested and pressured to delete video footage of a violent clash between 20 late-night revellers and between 30 and 40 police.

The incident has raised concerns that police are sending mixed signals about the value of "citizen journalism" in fighting crime, as well as their treatment of reporters who might film or photograph them in action.

It took place one month after they appealed for the public to send them videos to help identify criminals.

Art student Oliver Hopes was charged in April with hindering police after he used his camera-phone to record them using capsicum spray to subdue violent revellers in April.

The charge was dismissed last week after Mr Hopes' barrister, Michael Crawford-Fish, presented the Downing Centre Local Court with separate footage of the incident that had been taken by a security camera.

"The whole incident has darkened my view of the police," said Mr Hopes, who did not save the footage after he was told by police to stop filming.

He said the deleted footage would not have shown any misconduct by police.

"It's not another Rodney King," he said, but it could have shown the extent of the violence. "They saw me filming and told me to move back, which I did. They then said 'Turn that off' and I kept filming. He said 'Give me the phone' and I turned it off and put it in my pocket. He said 'Give it to me' and I said 'It's off. It's cancelled'. And he then said 'That's it, you're under arrest'."

Later, when he was being held overnight, police entered his cell, handed him the phone and told him to delete the footage.

"They told me it was against the law to film people and there were special provisions covering the media," he said. He explained that the footage had never been saved but he was still charged with hindering police.

The action over Mr Hopes' camera-phone forms a sharp contrast with the launch in March of a scheme in which NSW police had invited the public to send video footage of crime directly to a police website. The scheme, known as Project View -- Video Image Evidence on the Web, had been developed by assistant commissioner Bob Waites.

Last November, NSW police arrested journalist Matt Khoury after he witnessed a raid on a nightclub and made it clear to police he would be filing a story on the incident.

Mr Khoury had been charged under "move along" legislation but police withdrew the charge just before the case had been due to go to court.

NSW Civil Liberties Council president Cameron Murphy said police generally had no authority to order video footage to be deleted. But they would sometimes be justified in seizing footage if it were needed as part of an investigation.

He was deeply concerned about both incidents.

"There has been a steady increase in police powers to stop people, search them and move them along," he said.

"This is very dangerous and it's the sort of thing that over time will lead to a police state," Mr Murphy said.

Nice for Cameron Murphy of NSW CCL to get the quote, truth is they are so under resourced or something they didn't answer ANY email or telephone approaches by this writer over the months of this saga. Nor did NSW Ombudsman. Only PILCH charity referral service responded and then in the negative. And of course News Corp above for the gritty story.

Now we have yesterday a quite serious feature by the Sydney Daily Telegraph about another burgeoning aspect of NSW Police secrecy while keeping in mind the press mainly want to have access to the juicy news stories and therefore mixed motives - as they say in the media game 'if it bleeds it leads'.

The links to this latest unresolved front in right to know/public safety versus good policing practice/operational confidentiality is here:

15 Sept 08  Stalkers preying on our schools | The Daily Telegraph

15 Sept 08 Community alarm over silence of police | The Daily Telegraph

15 Sept 08 [offline] Attacks on children increasing (Sydney Daily Telegraph

15 Sept 08 [editorial] Hamstrung by NSW Police's new communication system Sydney Daily Telegraph

15 Sept 08 Police radio blackout is a concern for civic safety | The Daily Telegraph ...

Posted by editor at 7:46 AM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 17 September 2008 6:58 AM NZT

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