Friday, March 13, 2009

Jury recognizes excessive use of force by police goons

Police goons often hurt others by their reckless use of force (See here and here and here, for instance) so it is good to see them getting hurt back. It might help restrain future goonery from them. In view of the systematic corruption at all levels of the Western Australian force revealed by the Mallard case, it is about time something gave them a jolt. Thank goodness for the jury system

A father and his two sons have been found not guilty of assaulting policeman Matthew Butcher, left partly paralysed after he was head-butted in a brawl. A District Court jury yesterday found Robert McLeod, 56, and his two sons Barry McLeod, 29, and Scott James McLeod, 35, not guilty of eight charges laid after the fight at Joondalup's Old Bailey Tavern in February last year. The verdict has sparked concerns from the police union that officers are no longer protected when carrying out their duties.

Barry McLeod faced the most serious count, of doing an act with intent to cause harm, admitting to a ``flying head butt'' in which he struck Constable Butcher, 33, to the head from behind after the policeman shot his father with a Taser gun. Robert McLeod later collapsed from a heart attack - his third in three years.

Defence lawyers argued he and the other two members of his family acted in self defence when confronted by police, who they said acted with excessive force as they attempted to arrest them.

Ushered from court in his wheelchair, supported by uniformed police, Constable Butcher told reporters: ``I'm disgusted.'' His weeping wife Katrina said she was ``utterly disgusted'' by the verdict.

Neither Barry McLeod nor Scott McLeod - who smiled and laughed with supporters as he walked free - commented to waiting media. Their father was not in court as he has been recovering in hospital after suffering blood clots on the brain over the weekend.

Despite acquitting the men of assaulting police, the jury of eight men and four women convicted Scott McLeod of a lesser charge of threatening to kill a member of the public who videotaped the brawl on his mobile phone.

During the six week trial, the court was told the fight began between the McLeods and a group of painters, spilled onto the street and then escalated when police arrived. By their verdict, which was returned after a day and half of deliberations, the jury found prosecutors had failed to prove that Barry McLeod did not act in self defence, or did not come to the defence of his father when he assaulted Constable Butcher.

More here

A pre-trial account of the facts of the matter

A 56-year-old man on trial for assaulting a police officer during a brawl outside a Perth tavern says he punched the officer to protect his son.

Robert Mcleod is on trial in the District Court with his sons Scott Mcleod and Barry Mcleod. He told the court the three men were attempting to break up a fight outside the Joondalup Tavern in February last year when Barry McLeod was attacked by police. He said Constable Matthew Butcher pulled Barry McLeod's t-shirt over his head while another officer struck him.

He said he punched Constable Butcher to the stomach two or three times in order to free his son. Moments later Constable Butcher fired a Taser at Robert McLeod, who then suffered a heart attack.

Mr McLeod has conceded that at the time he was very annoyed at the police, who he claims assaulted his son for no reason.


Victoria's police crooks again

They couldn't lie straight in bed

Victorian police abused recording procedures to improve crime clearance rates, an Ombudsman report found. An investigation into crime statistics and police numbers found some police misused recording procedures "to make it appear more crime has been successfully solved than is actually the case".

Crime in Victoria is captured on the Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) database. Some offenders arrested and processed had unrelated, unsolved offences for which no one had been arrested added to their file, to "clear up" crime rates, the report said. It identified antiquated administrative practices for recording crime and outdated technology as major impediments to accurate reporting.

Ombudsman George Brouwer recommended the Office of Police Integrity investigate "falsification" of police records and called for the establishment of an independent authority to collect crime data. The Ombudsman's investigation followed a survey in the Herald Sun last April showing crime statistics were recorded in a way that meant far more offences were committed than were ever made public.

The report says discrepancies between reported crimes and official crime statistics are a result of poor crime reporting and deficient systems. In a sample survey, the Ombudsman found 80 per cent of calls made to the emergency services hotline 000 did not result in reported crimes. The report said this lack of correlation was problematic and needed review, with operational police admitting much of the crime was written off and not recorded.

One anonymous serving officer reported the limitations of the system meant a criminal charged with more than 1000 offences in a four-year period was listed as committing only one crime because the computer was incapable of recording more than 999 crimes. "What disturbed me is that my team put in months of work on this file, to be rewarded with the clean-up of one crime," the senior sergeant said.

Chief Commissioner Simon Overland said the Ombudsman's report related to an isolated incident and denied there was a systemic problem with distorted clearance rates. "As best I can tell there is one instance that they're talking about," Mr Overland said. "If that's happened, clearly that's of concern, and it should go to the OPI (Office of Police Integrity) and we should get to the bottom of it. "If there are more, we need to know about it."

Premier John Brumby welcomed the report, telling Parliament Victoria was the safest state in the country, but he admitted having the best-quality data was crucial. "We have record numbers of police, and crime has reduced across the state," he said.

Last month, Productivity Commission figures showed Victoria had the lowest spending per head of population on police services. In 2007-08, the Government invested only $305 per Victorian on policing services, the nation's lowest for the fifth consecutive year.

The Police Association said it was not in the interests of its members to cook the books to make crime statistics look better. Secretary Greg Davis said there were some fault lines with the system, which he described as cumbersome.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said the under-reporting of crime with the use of dodgy statistics undermined the Government's claims to be tough on crime. "This makes a mockery of John Brumby's claims about reduction of crimes in this state. We need more police and more police on the street."


Palestinian/Jewish dialogue unwelcome in Australian Arab organization

by Philip Mendes

The recent Senate Inquiry into allegations of academic bias highlighted the intense ideological divisions within universities and schools of learning. As confirmed by the Inquiry, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides one of the most volatile and polarised sources of such division. My personal experience as a long-standing participant in this debate suggests that even the most moderate academic supporters of Israel cannot find common ground with pro-Palestinian academics for respectful debate and dialogue.

For 15 years from 1987 till early 2002, I was active in the left-wing Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS). The AJDS position on the Middle East was very straightforward: a two-state solution based on the State of Israel existing roughly within the 1967 borders, and the corresponding creation of a state of Palestine within the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A key AJDS strategy was to establish links and dialogue with members of the local Palestinian and Arab communities.

Central to this strategy was a concern to show the rest of the Jewish community that Jews willing to recognise Palestinian rights and aspirations would receive positive feedback from local Palestinians and Arabs. A further implicit motivation was that successful Jewish-Arab dialogue in Australia based on mutual recognition and compromise could perhaps be seen as a model for successful peace negotiations within Israel/Palestine. This strategy included participation in the Australasian Middle East Studies Association (AMESA), an academic association consisting of both academics teaching in Middle East Studies - some of whom were Arabs and others who were Anglo-Saxon - and members of the local Palestinian and Arab communities.

Throughout the period of AMESA's existence (from about 1981 onwards), AJDS representatives had regularly been invited to speak at AMESA conferences, and welcomed within AMESA circles. My own involvement in AMESA had perhaps been less significant, but had included presentations to two AMESA conferences, contributions to the Deakin University (and AMESA-linked) Journal of Arabic, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, and contributions to the AMESA Newsletter. In addition, I had submitted in November 1997 at the request of a leading AMESA figure a witness statement to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission supporting a case by the Australian Arabic Council against the Herald & Weekly Times and Australia/Israel Publications (AIP).

Briefly, the matter involved some allegedly racist anti-Arab statements made by a visiting AIP-sponsored speaker David Pryce-Jones which had been published by the Herald Sun. The matter was subsequently settled out of court, and the Australian Arabic Council thanked the author in writing for "your very honest and powerful witness statement, and all your support throughout the two year case".

Not only this, but two prominent AMESA and Arab community intellectuals, Ray Jureidini and Christine Asmar, had approached me to draft a joint opinion piece on Jewish-Palestinian community relations in Australia. The article was intended to pinpoint the negatives of existing relations, and the future potential for improving relations. Plans were even made for the publication of a joint monograph on Palestinian and Jewish experiences of otherness and racism in Australia.

In late 1998, I was invited by the President of AMESA, Christine Asmar, to contribute an article to the AMESA Newsletter exploring how AMESA might improve its relations with the Jewish community. The submitted piece made the following points: that there was at best token representation of Jews in AMESA, that there did appear to be an in-built structural bias against Jewish representation within AMESA, but that nevertheless there were different views within the Jewish community about AMESA including some interest in identifying common ground.

In order to facilitate constructive engagement, I suggested the following: that AMESA adopt for its 1999 Conference the theme of "Jewish/Arab dialogue and friendship historically and today"; that AMESA invite the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to nominate two representatives to participate in the Conference Planning Committee; that AMESA invite the Israeli Ambassador and the Palestinian Ambassador to co-open proceedings, that AMESA consider inviting a mainstream Israeli writer or academic as a keynote speaker; and that AMESA invite the editor of the Australian Jewish News and a commensurate Arab community newspaper to speak at a joint session on Australian media presentations of Jews and Arabs, and possibilities for joint action against racist coverage.

To my surprise, AMESA chose to publish six responses to my article in the same issue without either my prior knowledge or permission. Three of the responses were broadly positive. However, the other three responses - from Ray Jureidini, John Docker, and Ned Curthoys - were vociferously critical. Their common concern seemed to be that my proposals would transform AMESA from a pro-Palestinian organisation into potentially a pro-Israel organisation. Docker, an anti-Zionist Jew, was the main concern. He argued without any evidence that my intention was to "intimidate, threaten and marginalise Jewish intellectuals" who did not conform to the Jewish community consensus. He claimed that my proposals would lead to the "surveillance and control of" AMESA by Zionists who had also suppressed "debate and discussion" in the media. Similarly, Ned Curthoys argued that my proposal was "grotesque", and reflected a "totalitarian vision for society".

Both Docker and Curthoys knew that I had argued for over 15 years both within and outside the Jewish community for the legitimacy of Palestinian national aspirations, for the creation of an independent Palestinian State alongside Israel, and for a free and tolerant Jewish debate around these issues. I was the last person who could reasonably be accused of wanting to censor anyone.

But worse was to come. I wrote a relatively short, careful and arguably measured response to the six responses, pointing out the negative and positives, and trying to focus again on the desired objective of achieving better relations between AMESA and the Jewish community.

Initially, Christine Asmar indicated that she would have to cut my letter to one page to which I reluctantly agreed. She also indicated at the same time that our proposed joint paper on Palestinian-Jewish relations would not go ahead. One month later I was informed by a new editor that she had cut and rewritten (without consultation) my letter to 150 words. I subsequently wrote a protest letter to the AMESA President, but to no avail. The organisation had closed ranks, and I was purged. My experience of Jewish-Arab dialogue was over.


Government hospital fires whistleblowing doctor

Outspoken Upper Ferntree Gully doctor Peter Lazzari, a strident critic of the health system, says he was sacked today for no apparent reason. The consultant physician, an employee of the Angliss Hospital for the past 13 years, told Knox Leader he was given his marching orders earlier today and was given no reason for his dismissal.

But he had no doubt it was because of his stinging criticism of Eastern Health and the State Government.

He recently made a submission to the Upper House Parliamentary Inquiry into Public Health Data calling for tougher penalties for hospitals that fudge waiting list times.

He said bonuses for hospitals should be scrapped and negligent health executives hauled before the courts to fix the state's health system.

He is understood to be seeking legal advice following his dismissal.

Eastern Health has yet to comment.


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