Protester wins over made-up charge

Issue 
Simone White.

Several NSW Police officers have been criticised in court for allegedly grabbing the breasts and neck of an anti-Reclaim Australia protester, then covering their actions up by deleting evidence, making up a false charge against her, lying under oath and attacking her in court.

Simone White was arrested at a Martin Place rally last year for allegedly assaulting Senior Constable John Wasko. After a year-long court battle, a magistrate has thrown out the charge and ordered police to pay White's legal costs because their arrest, investigation and subsequent prosecution were so improper.

White said that one police officer had groped her breasts and Wasko had grabbed her neck as they walked behind her. She took a photo of the officer she believed had indecently assaulted her by grabbing her breasts. Wasko immediately arrested her. Her phone was taken by another officer who, Magistrate Geoffrey Bradd found, deleted the photo.

The police case relied entirely on Wasko's testimony and contained no footage from CCTV cameras in Martin Place nor police officers who were filming the rally.

White's legal team subpoenaed the footage, which clearly showed her being pushed and shoved in the back by Wasko as protesters walked through Martin Place. The footage also showed White taking a photo of an officer on her phone, proving that her evidence was deleted by police.

When White gave evidence to the court, the prosecutor repeatedly accused her of lying. Her barrister, Phillip Boulten, SC, told the court: "The only reason why [the photo] would be deleted would be to make it more difficult for the complainant to say something in court."

Magistrate Bradd ruled that the investigation was "unreasonable and improper" and ordered the police to pay her $13,400 in legal costs.

White's solicitor, Lydia Shelly, said police had treated a protester as a criminal.

"The court confirmed today that my client is not a criminal. It has taken her nearly 12 months of litigation to prove that.

"This decision sends a very clear message to the police. It is not a criminal offence to protest nor is it an offence to film police if you are not hindering their duties. The NSW public expect more from NSW Police."

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