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NSW Police targeting of solicitor ‘completely unacceptable’, Law Society says

Following reports that a police task force harassed a solicitor on the morning of a trial, the NSW Law Society has labelled the targeting “unacceptable” and called on the police commissioner to take further action against the officers involved.

user iconNaomi Neilson 01 April 2021 Big Law
Juliana Warner
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Two officers working within task force Strike Force Raptor, and acting on the orders of a third, targeted a small-town solicitor with “deliberate, deceitful and malicious” harassment on the morning of a trial. While targeting tools can be effectively used in some instances, a commission found on this occasion the conduct was “disgraceful”. 

In a statement issued to Lawyers Weekly, Law Society of NSW president Juliana Warner confirmed that she has written to the police Commissioner Michael Fuller APM on behalf of the legal profession with her concerns about the conduct uncovered in the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) report. 

“The deliberate targeting of a solicitor, as uncovered by the commission, so as to impede his or her ability to represent his or her client at court, is completely unacceptable and has raised significant concerns across the legal profession,” Ms Warner commented. 

 
 

“It presents a real threat to the community’s belief that the criminal justice system is operating as it should.”

The two officers – a constable and senior constable – targeted the solicitor with road infringements where there were none. For example, they issued the first fine on the grounds that he did not indicate as he drove backwards out of his driveway, but the LECC found that if he had, it would have been “potentially dangerous”. 

The second time the officers pulled his car over, it was to do a spot check where they claimed to have found an oil leak the solicitor “wouldn’t be able to see”.

The targeting began after a more senior officer suspected the solicitor was working with an outlaw motorcycle gang, despite there being no proof that he had engaged in any criminal conduct alongside any members. The LECC said it was inappropriate to interfere just on the grounds that they did not approve of a solicitor or client. 

The solicitor’s client had been charged by the task force on animal cruelty charges. The officers were frustrated that they had to travel into the area after the solicitor refused to allow them to appear via audiovisual link. In response, the more senior officer wanted the solicitor to know that “the whole of Raptor’s here”. 

The three officers were found to have engaged in serious police misconduct. In the letter to Mr Fuller, Ms Warner recommended further action be considered. 

“I look forward to the police commissioner’s response to the commission’s report,” she said.