Monday, March 14, 2011

Media Release: Criminal Lawyers’ Association of WA, 14 March 2011

There has been a recent spate of trials where defendants on charges of obstructing police, resisting arrest and assaulting police have either been acquitted, had their charges withdrawn or convictions overturned due to footage of the incident being available.   Those cases have included Kevin Spratt, the Walker family and, more recently, Penelope Challice.

In each of these cases the footage of the alleged offending has actually cast serious doubts over the version given by police witnesses either in their written statements, their testimony at the trial or the factual summary of the alleged offence that was prepared for the court.  The Criminal Lawyers’ Association has grave concerns about the frequency in which this is occurring.

Logically, such footage ought to strengthen a prosecution case as it should be an independent account of what has been alleged by police. That observation, however, is not sustainable when the footage shows that the allegations are not an accurate account of what actually took place.
When footage of the particular incidents do nothing to enhance the prosecution case but in fact actually undermines the credibility of the accounts given by the police officers involved, questions must be asked as to:

(a) why were these people charged in the first place;
(b) why the accounts given by police are almost always consistent with each other but totally at odds with the footage; and
(c) whether charges were laid to cover up misconduct by the police themselves?

Of course, footage is not always available and it then becomes a case of the account given by police officers and that given by the defendant.  Often a court will be inclined to favour the version given by police as against that of a defendant, particularly when that person is affected by alcohol.  But as the above cases demonstrate the police version may not necessarily be the correct one.  

Ironically it was the use of “lipstick” cameras by police in the Challice case that played a part in the defendant being acquitted of assaulting a police officer.  Yet it has been reported that police officers have been banned from using such cameras since December last year.  Apparently there are logistics, resources and costs associated with the continued use of these devices (see p.59 of the Weekend West, 12-13 March 2011). 

If they are the problems then at the very least those police officers who have plainly given evidence in the past that contradicts what the footage shows, and who have not given a satisfactory explanation for those contradictions, should be compelled by the Commissioner of Police to wear these devices when apprehending members of the public.  That would guarantee that they would exercise more care in giving an accurate account of what had taken place.

Philip Urquhart
President of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association
Francis Burt Chambers
Direct line: (08) 9220 0464
Mobile: 0434 353 249


  1. Criminal offenses need not to be serious all the time. They can be less serious crimes like drunk driving. These sorts of crimes are usually known as misdemeanor crimes. There are lawyers dedicated to misdemeano r crimes. Criminal lawyers usually handle cases of felony which involves serious crimes like murder. Felony crimes can result in jail time or even death sentence. Therefore if you are involved in such a case you should hire a criminal lawyer immediately.

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  2. regardless of what anyone presumes about the facts/evidence re the incident and it is frankly disgusting that Minister Harvey, Commissioner O'Kallaghan and the wapu completely ignore or vilify the victim/complainant in this case (but i am not surprised, that's o'callaghan's modus operandi when it come to anyone daring to expose police corruption) the Court is far more qualified and in a far better position to evaluate ALL of the evidence. Their rulings were not only that the restraints applied to Challice were unlawful, but further that Johnson was guilty of assaulting her. Despite this, our corrupt Commissioner of Police, Karl O'Callaghan reinstated the convicted Officer to full operational duties, setting this animal loose on our community to bully women once again with his full support.