A video posted to Facebook has shown a young indigenous boys head being slammed onto bricks by a police officer. This video caused a stir across the Sydney community in the midst of the black lives matter protests. The liberal MP for Wentworth publicly commented on the video by saying he was alarmed and sickened from viewing it. The arrest took place at approximately 5:30pm on 1 June in a park at Surry Hills, where the boy was with friends.

In the video, a police officer can be heard talking to the boys. You then hear some talking back before the police officer walks over to the boy with intent, grabs him and slams his head onto the brick pathway. If this part of the video was not disturbing enough, you then observe two other police officers join in on holding him down while a friend yells at them that the boy has hit his head. The injured boy was barely moving just groaning in pain facedown. How is the community expected to put trust in police when this type of policing occurs?

A family member commented on the video by saying the boy was taken to the Police Station where he was cleared of any charges before then being taken to St Vincent’s Hospital for an examination. The boy had chipped teeth and severe bruising from the impact. An investigation into the leading up of the event later revealed no warrants were out for the boys arrest, the police officers had just approached the group in the park whilst patrolling.

To add further fuel to the fire, at a press conference the following day assistant commissioner Mick Willing refused to say whether he believed the level of force used by the officer during the incident was appropriate. Instead he danced around the question by raising the need for an investigation to occur. He then went on to say his greatest concern was that people might draw inferences from this video.


The Law Enforcement (Powers And Responsibilities) Act 2002 (LEPRA) governs for when a police officer can exercise their powers. Section 99 of LEPRA states a police officer can arrest a person if he or she suspects on reasonable grounds that the person is committing, or has committed, an offence and that the arrest is reasonably necessary. The meaning of the term ‘suspects on reasonable ground’ has been of debate since section 99 of LEPRA was amended in 2013. Prior to the amendment of the legislation, it was necessary for a person to have committed a serious indictable offence to be arrested without a warrant.

Premier Barry O’Farrell explained the reasoning for this amendment in his second reading speech. During his announcement, Mr O’Farrell, said the previous legislation needed to be amended because offenders were escaping convictions and large police payouts were occurring from wrongful arrests. The Premier was very tactful in his prepared speech, however the following day during a conference, he responded to a question without notice and revealed the statistics that motivated the legislation amendment.  He said it was his understanding that between April 2007 and January 2012 the NSW Police Force had to settle 378 claims for wrongful arrests. In 2012 the average settlement cost being paid by the NSW police force to victims of unlawful arrests was $75,000. If this were the case, why would the NSW government risk the safety of our community by widening the police arrest power to limit their liability?

An arrest is a deprivation of liberty and should only be used as a last resort. The recent high court case of The State of New South Wales v Robinson (2019) HCA 46 has made a judgment against a police officer for arresting a man as the first point of response. In this case The State of New South Wales submitted that it was not necessary that the arresting police officer to have formed an intention to charge a person with an offence at the exact time of arrest. In a majority decision, the High Court responded by rejecting the submission and dismissing the appeal. The court found that a police officer only has the power to arrest a person without a warrant if the officer has, at the time of arrest, formed the intention to charge the person.

According to the Court, police cannot, without a warrant, arrest a person merely for the purpose of asking questions or making investigations to see whether it would be appropriate to charge the person with a crime. An arrest in such circumstances would be unlawful.


In NSW the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) is the main body that investigates complaints made against police officers. However, this body is majorly underfunded and considered to be an ineffective watchdog in the flood of serious misconduct claims including allegations of bribery, unauthorised strip-searches and the misuse of authority for personal gain. The body assessed 2547 complaints against police officers last year alone, but was only able to properly investigate 2 per cent of them.

The LECC says it received about 100 tip offs last year, many likely from police officers. The shortfalls in funding mean the LECC is unable to effectively investigate complaints made against police officers. This sends a worrying message to police officers in NSW that they can breach the law because it is unlikely their conduct will be investigated.

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