Monday, February 15, 2016
Prosecution of man charged under bikie laws dropped and $30,000 awarded
Queensland police withdraw charges against Glen Pitt after lawyers allege they fabricated conversations and coerced him into agreeing to a warrantless search
Another prosecution by Queensland police under controversial anti-association laws has collapsed, leading to a $30,000 costs order awarded to a man who faced up to two years’ jail for entering a mothballed bikie clubhouse.
Police withdrew charges against mine worker Glen Pitt after his lawyers, in a pre-trial hearing in the Brisbane magistrates court on Tuesday, alleged detectives had fabricated conversations with the accused Rebels motorcycle club member before he was charged 18 months ago.
Pitt’s lawyers also argued detectives had coerced and induced him into agreeing to a warrantless search by telling him they would stop him attending his daughter’s 21st birthday and that he faced only a fine for an offence bringing a minimum mandatory six months’ jail.
The case, which follows the withdrawal of charges in other high-profile prosecutions including of librarian Sally Kuether last year, marks more than two years without a single conviction under anti-association laws since their introduction in a government campaign against outlaw motorcycle gangs in 2013.
A taskforce led by former judge Alan Wilson is due next month to deliver its review of these and other laws to a Palaszczuk government that has flagged repealing and replacing them. Police and the Liberal National party opposition, which introduced laws in government in 2013, have called for them to remain.
Pitt, 44, whom police alleged was a Rebels member, was found by officers in the yard of a disused Rebels clubhouse in Virginia, in Brisbane’s north, in July 2014 after he noticed tradesmen dismantling a shed.
The property was among 43 clubhouses declared off limits to bikies, who risk a mandatory six months’ jail by setting foot in them.
Pitt was charged with attending a prescribed place while a participant in a criminal organisation.
Pitt’s barrister Ken Fleming argued in court on Tuesday that detectives had coerced the man into agreeing to a search of his home by telling him they could return with a warrant and he would then be prevented from attending his daughter’s 21st birthday party that evening.
Fleming argued a detective also induced Pitt by telling him he was facing a simple offence that would likely lead to a fine, where in fact a mandatory minimum six month jail term applied.
He told the court that police had made allegations about conversations – in which Pitt allegedly admitted to being a Rebels bikie and that the premises was a Rebels clubhouse – that could not have taken place.
After a short adjournment by magistrate Barry Cosgrove, police withdrew charges and Pitt obtained a $30,000 costs order against them.
Pitt’s solicitor Chris Main said after the hearing that cross-examination had revealed “some significant inconsistencies between statements sworn on oath by police officers and the evidence they gave on oath, which was considerably damning to the prosecution”.
“There were conversations alleged to have occurred between our client and police which we say did not occur and they could not have happened,” he said.
“We further say that some admissions that our client is alleged to have made did not and could not have happened.”
Dozens of charges under the anti-association laws – which also forbid bikies or “criminal organisation participants” from recruiting or gathering in public in groups of more than two – have been adjourned until after the outcome of the Wilson review.
They include the case of the Yandina Five, alleged Rebels members and associates, some of them relatives, who were charged after having dinner together at the Yandina pub north of Brisbane with their families. Almost 50 people have been charged under the laws.
Main said his client had just returned to Brisbane from a stint working in mines when he noticed tradesmen dismantling the shed. “He goes in to see what’s happening because he doesn’t know if it’s being robbed or what. Police show up and charge him,” he said.