Well this is absolutely bloody fucked: a court has found “strong evidence” that NSW Police deleted photos off a woman’s phone which identified a police officer who groped her.
Simone White, 41, took part in the anti-Reclaim Australia protests in Sydney in July 2015, during which she says an unidentified officer twice grabbed her breasts during a jostle between police and demonstrators.
Video footage shows her turning around and taking photos of the officer. This is fact, despite police later accusing her of lying during a cross-examination.
Shortly after taking the photos, White was arrested by senior constable John Wasko and charged with assault. Wasko claimed she had attempted to elbow him in the crowd, and she claimed that he’d pushed her and grabbed her around the neck, causing slight injury.
It’s here that the issues of ~casually destroyed evidence~ become apparent: White was taken to a mobile police station where a female officer took her phone, saying that it was necessary to identify her (she’d already produced a bank card to verify her identity).
White told the court that she asked the officer not to delete any photos, yet when she received her phone back, the photos of the officer (the one she said had groped her in the crowd) had been deleted.
Her defence team tried to subpoena the footage from inside the mobile police station as evidence, yet this was ignored by police, with Wasko telling the court that the camera was faulty that day.
However, in response to the subpoena, police eventually produced video footage that showed Wasko pushing White in the back, but no evidence she had tried to elbow Wasko – the assault she was arrested for.
Magistrate Geoffrey Bradd dismissed the charges against White and took the unusual step of forcing police to pay her legal costs, awarding her $13,400.
He then gave the police a savaging, saying that they’d investigated the case “in an unreasonable and improper manner” by accusing White of lying about taking the photos during a cross-examination, despite video footage proving their existence.
“The evidence strongly indicates that Ms White believes her breasts were twice clasped by a police officer, that she took photographs of the police officer she suspected of indecently assaulting her; the photographs were deleted by a police officer before the phone was returned to Ms White,” he said.
White’s lawyer Lydia Shelly said this sends a very clear message to police: “It is not a criminal offence to protest nor is it an offence to film police if you are not hindering their duties.”