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An Attack on Justice: Strike Force Raptor Targets Our Legal System

A police officer pulling over person before they can see their lawyer at National Criminal Lawyers in Parramatta

An Attack on Justice: Strike Force Raptor Targets Our Legal System

In Australia, the right to legal representation is not enshrined in legislation or by our Constitution. Unlike the United States of America, Australians are only protected by the constitutional right to a fair trial. However, an issue which Courts are often required to balance is rooted in the following question:

“Can a person charged with a crime be guaranteed a fair trial without legal representation?”

In matters which are objectively less serious, the answer is often “yes”. Regardless, if you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offence, it is always sensible to retain legal representation. As our readers are often well aware, any person who has been charged with a criminal offence will often be required to fund significant costs associated with retaining legal representations.

 

With that in mind, consider the following scenario:

You have been charged with a crime and due to appear in the Local Court. You have retained a lawyer to appear on your behalf and have spent considerable funds for their preparation and advice. As your lawyer is en route to the Courthouse, they are repeatedly stopped, fined and harassed by police in a calculated and premeditated effort to prevent your lawyer from appearing at Court for your matter. Your lawyer is now shaken from the harassment at the hands of the police and is unable to adequately represent you on that day.

In a democratic country such as Australia, a nation which is grounded on open and fair justice, you would be surprised to know that the above mentioned scenario is an accurate retelling of a recent incident involving Strike Force Raptor, an elite police unit which was established in 2009 to target serious criminal activity.

THE INCIDENT

On 28 May 2019, a lawyer who remains unnamed, was due to attend a defended hearing in the Local Court. The lawyer was retained to represent a bikie who allegedly committed acts of animal cruelty. After requesting that members of Strike Force Raptor attend court to give evidence in person (rather than via Audio Visual Link), an unnamed Sergeant directed two other officers from Strike Force Raptor to “target” the lawyer because he “is a solicitor who was in with the bikies”.

After receiving instructions from the Sergeant, the two police officers waited outside the lawyer’s home at around 6:30am on the day of the defended hearing. The police officers were directed to ensure that the lawyer “doesn’t make it to court” and proceeded to follow him in their car. The police officers subsequently issued the lawyer with two traffic infringement notices, one for failing to indicate as he reversed out of his own driveway and another for failing to carry his licence. The police officers also conducted an inspection of the vehicle. They issued a defect notice for an alleged oil leak and faulty seatbelt. These defects were later disproved by a mechanic who found no defects anywhere on the vehicle whatsoever.

After this encounter with the police, the lawyer decided to take a taxi to his office where he would prepare for Court. The same police officers pulled over the taxi and issued another traffic infringement notice for failing to indicate when exiting a roundabout. Arriving at his office, the police officers remained outside for some time in direct view of the lawyer’s workplace.

Understandably, the conduct of the police officers caused the lawyer to be so shaken that he was unable to represent his client that same day. It is particularly distressing that such behaviour was carried out by members of the New South Wales Police Force.

 

THE REPORT: ‘COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE’

After the incident, the lawyer filed a complaint with the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (‘LECC’). After an investigation, a report was subsequently drafted which labelled the actions of the police officers to be “deliberate, deceitful and malicious harassment”. The Law Society, the regulatory body for Solicitors in New South Wales, has since branded the actions detailed in the report as “completely unacceptable”. In addition, the President of the Law Society, Juliana Warner, has written to New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller expressing the detrimental impact the actions of the police officers have had on the administration of justice.

 

WHY IS THE REPORT CONCERNING FOR ALL?

Lawyers are an integral part of our justice system. Aside from their advocacy skills in the courtroom and the legal advice they offer clients, lawyers are officers of the court. As an officer of the court, they must contribute to the administration of justice and are accountable to the profession and the general public (Rondel v Worsley [1969] 1 AC 191, 227). It therefore stands to reason that any intimidation, harassment or any other unjustifiable act of “targeting” of an officer of the court, is in itself, an attack on the administration of justice.

Although harassment, intimidation and other acts intended to cause fear should be condemned, the incident detailed in this article is even more concerning given that those obligated with protecting the community and enforcing the law have used their power to unjustifiably attack the legal representation of the accused.

If you or anyone you know has been unfairly treated or targeted by members of the New South Wales Police Force, get in touch with one of our specialist criminal lawyers to ensure your rights are protected.

Book your first free appointment with National Criminal lawyers now.
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