Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Taxpayers fund payouts to former cop's bashing victims

And all he gets is 12 months in jail. I predicted the payouts here yesterday

ROGUE ex-cop Benjamin Thomas Price has cost taxpayers more than $1 million in secret payouts to three bashed tourist victims in a case of police brutality branded by senior officers as "one of the worst ever seen".

Former Senior Constable Price, 33, of Airlie Beach police station, yesterday pleaded guilty to three counts of assault occasioning bodily harm and one count of common assault against three victims in 2007 and 2008.

Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail reveal three victims made civil damages claims for at least six-figure compensation payouts against the Queensland Police Service – because the ex-police officer is bankrupt.

His admission of guilt comes after female police whistleblower Constable Bree Sonter, yesterday hailed as a hero, broke ranks and filed a complaint against her former patrol partner two years ago.

Price was accused of punching and kneeing a handcuffed Timothy Steele before jamming a fire hose in his mouth, nearly drowning his victim on May 25, 2008. Shocking video footage from inside the Airlie Beach police station shows Price punching and kneeing a bleeding, handcuffed Timothy Steele.

In another incident, it was alleged petite barmaid Renee Toms, also handcuffed, was flung about by the hair by Price before being slammed into a desk and the floor inside the watchhouse.

His third victim, merchant banker Nicholas Le Fevre, of Sydney, claims he was king-hit and repeatedly punched in the head by Price after arguing with him. Yesterday he confirmed he was the latest to take a confidential out-of-court settlement.

Documents show Steele, a plasterer of NSW, filed a damages claim in Brisbane Supreme Court for $725,000 and is known to have signed off on a confidential agreement.

Barmaid Renee Toms, also of Sydney, yesterday confirmed her case was yet to be settled and was due to go to mediation with a compensation figure yet to be decided.

Price yesterday showed no emotion as he changed his plea to guilty and outside court refused to respond to questions about any formal apology to his victims.

But, in extraordinary claims on his Facebook page, the father-of-two protested his innocence in his latest entry. He said: "I want you to all understand that I have been forced into a corner by the QPS and the dogs that turned against me."

He revealed he cut a deal with the DPP to change his plea to guilty for a reduced three-year sentence to spend a maximum 12 months in prison. He brokered the deal in the hope he would be "out in time for his oldest son's 16th birthday next October".

"The case has gained much media attention and is now purely political. "I'm positive that I've made the best decision for my wife and kids and to me nothing else matters."

Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart, in response to Price's guilty plea yesterday, said it was "one of the most difficult cases we've had to deal with". "We apologise to the community for this breach of trust," he said. "Certainly the behaviour is that of the worst I've seen for one single officer."

Asked by The Courier-Mail why the officers who witnessed the brutality but remained silent had not been punished, he replied they "may have received managerial guidance". [What a mockery of justice!]

Deputy Commissioner Stewart praised female officer Bree Sonter for her "integrity and courage". The action of the whistleblower which led to the investigation and charges was "proof the system works". [What system? It was just one decent cop while other cops stood by and did nothing]

Price will be sentenced in Townsville District Court on October 8 and is likely to face a minimum 12 months' jail.