ABC: Indigenous man ‘in disbelief’ after NSW police officer acquitted of assaulting him in custody

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-17/nsw-police-officer-acquitted-assault-indigenous-man-in-custody/13162640

An Indigenous man has told his lawyer he “feels no one cares about what happened to him” after a NSW police officer convicted of assaulting him in custody was yesterday acquitted of all charges on appeal.

Key points:

  • NSW police officer Jeames Iain Murray’s conviction for assault of prisoner quashed on appeal
  • Appeal judge finds Mr Murray’s version of events could be accepted and the force was not excessive
  • Partick Little’s lawyer says the decision deserves the “closest scrutiny”

Senior Constable Jeames Iain Murray was last year convicted in the NSW local court of two counts of common assault and fined a total of $3,500 for his actions during the arrest of Patrick Little in 2019.

CCTV footage captured the events at Goulburn Police Station which showed the officer push Mr Little’s head into a wall before throwing him into a cell door.

But a district court judge quashed the officer’s convictions on appeal in a judgement handed down yesterday.

The ABC understands district court judge Mark Williams upheld the appeal on the basis it was his view that Mr Murray’s version of events could be accepted, and that the force was reasonable and not excessive or disproportionate.

The NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to comment on whether they will appeal in this case.

Mr Little’s lawyer Michael Lalor told the ABC yesterday’s decision deserves the “closest scrutiny” and had left his client confused.

“He expressed disbelief at the outcome and also a feeling that no one cares about what happened to him,” Mr Lalor said.

“I cannot accurately say what the decision means for the future prosecutions of allegations of assault by police.

“But the decision deserves the closest scrutiny.”

‘You’ve just lost your job’

In January 2019, Mr Murray and another officer were called to a fight involving Mr Little and his cousin outside a Goulburn club.

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

The footage then showed Mr Murray pushing him into a wall, placing him in a headlock and then throwing him into a custody cell door.

Mr Little said at the end of the footage: “You’ve just lost your job.”

Mr Murray pleaded not guilty to charges of common assault and has maintained his actions were lawful and proportionate.

In the initial hearing Mr Murray 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.

He was found guilty of two counts of common assault in October 2020 and fined.

Lawyer: ‘The police force reflects the community’

Mr Lalor — who has worked extensively with Indigenous Australians across the country — said there was a strong public interest in the outcome of Mr Little’s case.

“The police force reflects the community from which its members are drawn and which its members are entrusted to represent,” he said.

“To the extent that the evidence in the proceedings represents the standards of the police force when operating in situations similar to Mr Little’s, then those standards are also the standards of the community which the police force represent.

“Whether or not police standards of behaviour are an accurate reflection of the community’s standards is a matter worthy of debate.”

Mr Lalor said the ordeal had weighed heavily on Mr Little.

“The prosecution for these charges was a traumatic experience for Mr Little and his family,” he said.

“Mr Little was cross-examined at length on the events of the evening in question.

“Any further prosecution would certainly add to this burden.”

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