Monday, December 26, 2011

Qld. police politics ruin murder investigation

This looks very much like a coverup of police links with criminals

THE investigation of a brutal double murder on the Gold Coast was compromised by internal police politics, a former detective who worked the case claims.

A jury took just three hours in September to acquit two men of the 1999 murders in Springbrook of Ann-Maree Kropp and Christopher Nancarrow after a month-long trial - the culmination of 12 years of police work and two separate investigations - leaving the victims' families in despair.

Paddy Fenely, a former Gold Coast CIB detective sergeant, said he and a colleague were just weeks away from making arrests in January 2007 when they were "raided" by officers from homicide, who ordered them to drop the case and have no further contact with the victims' families.

Two men were arrested nine months later, leading to their trial and acquittal this year. "As far as I'm concerned they've just blown it," Mr Fenely told The Courier-Mail.

DNA alleged to be from the suspects was found at the scene, but no motive was established.

However, Mr Fenely said promising lines of inquiry suggesting the murdered couple had been recruited by a drug ring linked to Nomads bikies planning to supply methamphetamine to truck drivers in Murwillumbah appeared not to have been pursued by the officers who took over the case. "I had four people independently tell me the same story," Mr Fenely said. "We were never given the chance to look at that."

Mr Fenely said that, on January 23, 2007, a group of homicide officers "raided our office, with a direction that the investigation had been determined to be a cold case and files were to be handed over to homicide and we were to have no further involvement".

Mr Fenely claims there had been no grounds to declare a cold case and the move was driven by a push to use a controversial strategy in which police directly befriend criminals and get them to admit to former crimes. This is instead of the traditional method of using informants to introduce undercover police to existing criminal networks.

"I said 'righto, we'll go along with your system'," Mr Fenely said. "[But] I was against it. "Their system wasn't working after about six months, it got nowhere, so we said 'righto, let's wrap it up, we know who our two suspects are, work towards going and locking them up'.

"We argued that 'you've had your time, the families need closure, we know who the suspects are, we've identified them', and they wanted to continue to run, which they still did - continue their covert strategies - after we got the boot.

"I said 'these families have waited long enough and they don't need to wait any longer' and they said 'well they've waited this long and they can wait longer again'."

One of the officers who took over the case, Detective Sergeant David Nicoll, told the Brisbane Magistrates Court in 2008 that Gold Coast CIB had been removed from the investigation because of concerns they may have failed to fully probe the possible involvement of a former colleague who lived next door to the murdered couple.

The man, an ex-Gold Coast CIB detective, pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was jailed less than a month after the Springbrook murders.

Calls made on the day the couple are thought to have been killed from the former officer's house to the home and business of one of the men accused of the murders have never been explained.

One highly placed police source said homicide had taken over the investigation because of "sensitive issues that remain within the service". "There was a whole range of reasons, (the corrupt officer) was one of them," the source said.

The parents of Ann-Maree Kropp wrote to Commissioner Bob Atkinson in 2007 demanding to know why the Gold Coast officers had been removed. Then-Deputy Commissioner Dick Conder replied simply: "Members of the Homicide Investigation Unit have carriage of this investigation following previous extensive inquiries conducted by (the Gold Coast detectives)."

Changes to Queensland's double-jeopardy rules in 2007 mean people acquitted of murder can be retried if "fresh and compelling" evidence emerges.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

A case that should worry all Queenslanders

THE tacky, disturbing and totally unnecessary case of Bruce Rowe versus misplaced authority came to an end in the District Court on Monday. Well, it could have, although Constable Benjamin Arndt, who was found guilty of assaulting Rowe in 2006 in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall, could appeal to the Supreme Court or, conceivably, beyond.

The immovable Rowe, who turned 71 on Sunday, was a comparative stripling of 65 when he crossed paths with Arndt and a bunch of other police about 9 o'clock on the night of July 9, five-and-a-half years ago.

In an incident that was widely seen on TV (and is still out there on YouTube), Rowe was arrested, charged and convicted of obstructing police and failing to obey a police order after a disagreement that began in the public toilets and ended with him being held down by four officers and kneed by another.

It dragged through the Magistrates Court, the District Court and the Court of Appeal. The first court convicted Rowe, the second confirmed the conviction but the third overturned it.

The rematch came in the Magistrates Court in February when Rowe launched a private prosecution resulting in Arndt being found guilty of assaulting Rowe, fined $1000 and ordered to pay him $2250 court costs, although no conviction was recorded.

The established forces of investigation or law and order were conspicuous by their absence.

Then Arndt disputed the magistrate's findings but this week Judge Brian Devereaux tossed out the appeal. Watch this space.

The appeal largely revolved around claims that magistrate Linda Bradford-Morgan had relied on information extraneous to the case.

Arndt argued that the wrongful consideration of extraneous materials constituted a substantial miscarriage of the Magistrates Court trial, justice was not seen to be done and the trial was not conducted according to law.

Judge Devereaux was sympathetic to a point but decided it was open to the magistrate to convict Arndt on the original evidence without the distraction of the extraneous material.

He watched the distasteful video "many times" and declared: "It is unnecessary to say I reach precisely the same conclusions ... having due regard to the findings and conclusions of the magistrate but mindful of the errors I have found in her honour's reasoning, I have formed my own conclusion that the force used in the application of the four knee strikes was not authorised or justified or excused by law. "It was unlawful because it was not reasonably necessary and was unjustified in the circumstances."

How did it all come to this and why did it take so long to resolve?

Had Rowe been just another homeless, friendless and vulnerable man it might have been a simple issue resolved in court just after the morning drunks' parade.

In nine cases out of 10, that might have happened. However Rowe, although grieving and troubled, was also a stubborn and courageous man who refused to take a step backwards in the face of what he perceived as injustice.

He ultimately turned out to be more than capable of looking after himself and seeking justice. Perhaps, it is the other nine out of 10 cases we should be worried about.

At the time of Arndt's assault case, Police Union president Ian Leavers expressed concern that the conviction had "dire consequences for all police officers doing their job". "I am very, very concerned now that police officers across the state will be reluctant to do their job and the community will suffer," Leavers said.

It is a seductive sentiment for those who haven't the wit or the humility to ever imagine themselves in Rowe's shoes. However, it is ultimately even more harmful to the community to pretend that police cannot do their job without breaking the law.

And it is an affront to the thousands of police who do manage to do their difficult jobs without breaking the letter or the spirit of the law and apply the police motto of "With honour we serve" to all citizens, regardless of their station or their situation.

Equally worrying is that justice was delivered despite, not because of, the Police Ethical Standards Command and the Crime and Misconduct Commission, which found there was insufficient evidence to charge any of the police officers over the incident.

Subsequent court findings that Rowe was not only innocent but had been unlawfully roughed up must raise questions about the quality and diligence of both investigations.

Had it not been for the toughness and pigheadedness of Rowe, whose "age and slight frame" were noted by the magistrate, a serious wrong would have gone unpunished.

Had it not been for the video evidence, his might have been the feeble voice of an ordinary man who had fallen on hard times against that of police.

The inadequacies of the investigations into this event - and similar failings and inconsistencies in many others - are hardly likely to inspire confidence among the public or the police, who have an equal entitlement to justice.

The Roman poet Juvenal is credited with asking "Who will guard the guardians?" We are yet to adequately answer that, but surely it is not a 71-year-old man.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Judge upholds cop's conviction for assault

Why was no criminal conviction recorded against this scum? It is a sad day when citizens (such as Mr Rowe and Miss Eaves) have to launch private prosecutions to prove police misbehaviour. The police brass obviously believe there is a degree of assault by police that should be permitted. That is however an entirely extra-legal view.

The Commissioner himself is tainted by his inaction in these cases -- even more so since he used taxpayer funds to defend the erring officers and take their cases to appeal

One can only hope that there will now be disciplinary action against Arndt after the failure of his appeal confirms what garbage he is

A policeman who was found guilty of assaulting a homeless man in a Brisbane mall has had his appeal against the verdict dismissed.

Constable Benjamin Arndt was fined $1000 in February, with no conviction recorded, for assaulting 65-year-old Bruce Rowe in Brisbane's Queen St Mall in 2006.

He was one of four officers who restrained Mr Rowe after he failed to obey a cleaner's request to leave a public toilet in Brisbane's Queen St Mall where he was getting changed.

Security video of the incident, which attracted national media attention, formed the basis of Mr Rowe's assault complaint. He had originally been found guilty of obstructing police and disobeying a lawful direction, but the decision was overturned on a second appeal. Mr Rowe then launched a successful private prosecution for common assault against Const Arndt.

In documents lodged in the Brisbane District Court, Const Arndt argued the magistrate erred by considering the previous court cases between Mr Rowe and Const Arndt when making her decision in the latest case.

Const Arndt also alleged evidence was improperly led during the private prosecution and claimed the magistrate had failed to make sufficient rulings on a number of pertinent issues including the lawfulness of a "move on" direction given to Mr Rowe before the incident.

Judge Brian Devereaux dismissed these claims in Brisbane's Court of Appeal on Monday. He found the magistrate had erred by considering previous court cases but that the guilty verdict stood.

"Mindful of the errors I have found in her Honour's reasoning, I have formed my own conclusion that the force used in the application of the four knee strikes was not authorised or justified or excused by law," the judge said.

The Police Ethical Standards Command and Crime and Misconduct Commission had found there was insufficient evidence to charge any of the police officers over the incident.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lazy Qld. cops give embezzler a pass

FAKE Tahitian prince Joel Morehu-Barlow fled to Australia after a complaint was made to New Zealand police about an alleged criminal offence seven years ago. The revelation will embarrass the Crime and Misconduct Commission, police and Queensland Health, which last year dismissed a complaint about Barlow without a proper investigation.

The Sunday Mail has discovered Barlow's childhood "castle" was really an ageing weatherboard home with a tin roof in Thames, on New Zealand's North Island. His mother the "Queen", Andre Barlow, was last year convicted in the Wellington District Court of stealing almost $25,000 from her lesbian partner's inheritance funds to pay her bills.

Barlow, who was charged last week with embezzling $11 million from Queensland Health, was a child when he began lying about his links to royalty, schoolmates said. "He went on a bit about how he was famous," former Thames High School pupil Michael Barrett said. "He would carry around a staff."

Further details of the criminal allegations against Barlow cannot be published due to legal reasons, but it can be revealed he was a cross-dressing chameleon obsessed with his appearance.

He was a frequent customer in Brisbane spas and beauty clinics where he would get spray tans, eyebrow shaping and Botox. He was often seen in drag at The Sportsman Hotel in Spring Hill, patrons said. "When he was dressed as a man he shouted everyone, but when he was in drag everyone shouted him," one said.

He was fond of throwing lavish parties, including a massive $130,000 bash for his birthday.

Barlow had lived in a Vernon Tce apartment in the inner-Brisbane suburb of Teneriffe since about 2004 and in the early days was often seen dressed as a woman.

He worked for the Children's Commissioner in NZ and also for the NZ Inland Revenue.

The CMC is investigating Queensland Health and police over the fiasco, but a spokeswoman confirmed the watchdog also would look at its own role, amid serious questions about its handling of complaints.

The CMC referred last year's complaint to Queensland Health, but retained oversight and accepted an inadequate investigation that did not even question Barlow.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Aggressive Gold Coast cop harasses tennis champion

This is very reminscent of the Renee Eaves case on the Gold Coast. The cop had better watch out that he doesn't end up the same way

GOLD Coast tennis star Bernard Tomic is claiming police harassment after being pulled over for allegedly hooning in his $150,000 high-powered sports car.

Tomic, Australia's top-ranked male tennis player, says he is being victimised by a 'jealous' Coast traffic cop who has pulled him up several times while out and about in his distinctive bright orange BMW M3. The 19-year-old P-plater has a special Department of Transport exemption allowing him to drive the V8-powered vehicle.

Tomic alleged he was being targeted by the officer, who he refused to name, and said he was 'scared'. "He doesn't like me for some reason ... he's always on my tail," the teenager said. "I think it's really bad. I haven't done a thing wrong - I just go about my business as a tennis player."

Tomic said he was pulled up on Sunday night in Surfers Paradise after he was allegedly seen hooning on the Southport Spit. He said he was pulled up at traffic lights and denied he had broken the law. "I didn't speed, I didn't do any of that stuff," he said.

"The car's very loud but I don't know what he (the police officer) defines as hooning.

"It (being pulled over) scared me a bit, to be honest. He's pulled me over a few times but now it's starting to get a little bit more aggressive."

Police said the special licence exemption allowed Tomic to drive the BMW to and from training at Southport's Queens Park tennis centre. But Tomic, who this year became the youngest man to make the Wimbledon quarter-finals, said he understood he was entitled to drive at any time in the course of his professional duties.

"I've got training, gym, massages and meetings I have to go to ... my days are very busy getting ready for the summer (tennis season)," he said.

"I don't know what it is - jealousy or whatever - but this policeman seems to have it in for me. If I did the wrong thing, he would charge me, but he hasn't. "I know he has a job to do but so do I."

However, Tomic said he did not plan to lodge an official complaint about the officer. "If he wants to keep pulling me over, there's nothing I can do about it," he said.
"I just hope it stops."


Friday, December 2, 2011

Another thug cop gets off lightly

Why wasn't he charged with assault?

A QUEENSLAND police officer demoted for the wrongful arrest of a female officer, with whom he was romantically linked, has won an application to have his disciplinary period halved.

The Queensland Court and Administrative Tribunal has allowed serving police officer Mark McKenzie's appeal to reduce his demotion, from sergeant to senior constable, from two years to one year.

QCAT president Justice Alan Wilson and judicial member James Thomas, QC, in a just published 10-page decision, allowed Constable McKenzie's appeal against disciplinary action taken against him by acting Queensland Police Commissioner Tony Wright.

Commissioner Wright found Constable McKenzie, a sergeant at the time of the incident, had "inappropriately and forcibly detained" fellow Mount Isa officer Constable Jane Moran on March 1, 2008.

Justice Wilson and Mr Thomas’s decision means Constable McKenzie would not have to incur an expected impost of $23,000 lost in wages.

In February this year The Courier-Mail revealed Constable McKenzie lost an application to overturn an early 2009 decision to demote him after an internal disciplinary investigation and hearing.

QCAT member Joanne Browne, in a 21-page decision released in November last year, said: "Investigations have identified that whilst off duty you (McKenzie) became involved in an incident at police accommodations at Stanley Street, Mount Isa, where you detained Ms Moran."

She said he grabbed Ms Moran, forced her face-down on to a bed, handcuffed her and told her that she was being detained for domestic violence.

"Your actions resulted in Jane Sonya Moran sustaining injuries, including a fracture of the right eye socket," Ms Browne said.

"The QPS having found the charge (of inappropriately and forcibly detaining Ms Moran) to be substantiated, ordered McKenzie be reduced in rank from sergeant . . . to senior constable for a period of two years, effective from February 2010."

Constable McKenzie applied to QCAT to review the QPS findings and his demotion, on the grounds that it was manifestly excessive.

QCAT was told both officers became involved in a romantic relationship while living in separate QPS units at Mount Isa.

The tribunal heard conflicting versions of the March, 2008, incident, in which it was alleged Constable McKenzie feared Ms Moran might stab him after being awoken by her while he was asleep in his unit.

He said he then tried to subdue Ms Moran using police handcuffs to restrain her.

But Ms Browne, in her findings, said she agreed with the QPS determination and sanction, with his conduct not meeting community standards.

"The tribunal finds . . . the conduct of SC McKenzie is of such a nature as to erode public confidence in the police service and the sanction imposed was therefore appropriate," she said.

In September Justice Wilson and Mr Thomas, in reducing Constable McKenzie’s disciplinary period, said the original "penalty was too harsh."

"Regard should ... (have been given) to the fact that the (Constable McKenzie) has performed good service both before and after the incidents," he said.

"There does not seem to be any realistic chance, or discernible risk, of any repetition of the incident in question.

"All things considered we are persuaded that the present penalty was too heavy and that, in the interests of consistency, it should be replaced with a reduction in rank from Sergeant … to Senior Constable … for a period of one year."