RLC in the Media: $89M in civil claims against NSW Police revealed

Nearly $90 million of taxpayer money has been paid out by NSW Police in hundreds of civil claims alleging police brutality, unlawful searches and illegal arrests over the last four financial years, NewsLocal reveals.

Jake McCallum, reports for NewsLocal (Daily Telegraph)

This week, the NSW Police Force was ordered to hand over documents detailing the number and cost of civil cases against officers between 2016 and 2019 to the Legislative Council, which also uncovered a total of 38 current or former officers have brought claims against NSW Police during the same timeframe.

The documents provided to the NSW Upper House revealed almost 1000 cases of civil claims against officers have been settled by the NSW Police Force in the past four years, including dozens of cases brought by former officers.

A total of $89.62 million has been settled across 968 cases between the 2016/17 and the 2019/20 financial years, averaging a $92,583 payout to each victim. The shocking number of cases — and the massive bill to the public — include matters of unlawful arrests, illegal arrests, false imprisonment, trespass, assault, harassment and malicious prosecution.

Cases of officers claiming incidents of historical sexual assault in the workplace and PCYC facilities across the state were also included in the report.

In July, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission handed down a report on NSW Police Force misconduct matters relating to strip searches conducted at the Hidden Music Festival, Secret Garden Music Festival and Midnight Mafia Music Festival.

The government watchdog investigated three complaints about the lawfulness and conduct of strip searches of four individuals — which found there was insufficient lawful basis for the strip search, as well as the issuing of a banning notice to a woman entering the Hidden Music Festival on March 2, 2019.

Investigations found the woman was forced to endure a strip search with the door of the cubical unable to be closed.

The Redfern Legal Centre’s Samantha Lee said she was working alongside Slater and Gordon to investigate the opportunity for compensation claims on unlawful strip searches.

“NSW Police’s dirty laundry isn’t being aired,” she said. “We know the majority of civil claims are settled and [this] shows there are systemic problems arising on a regular basis that are not being addressed.

“A big problem is settlements come with gag clauses, so the person that has been wronged cannot speak about the problem or the pain caused — meaning we never see what needs to change.”

A NSW Police spokeswoman said it receives around 300 civil claims seeking damages each year.

Read the full article here: Curtis Scott seeks $400k damages from NSW Police as $89m in payouts revealed (NewsLocal, Daily Telegraph online [pay wall], 14 October 2020)