Video evidence destroys police case

Issue 

By Stephen Robson

PERTH — Video footage filmed by Channel 10 camera person Jason Thomas was important evidence at the trial of three people arrested during a protest against Operation Sweep on March 26. The two-day trial concluded here on May 24.

All three were found not guilty of resisting arrest, and one was acquitted of hindering police.

Film maker Kim McGlynn, UWA student activist Elena Jeffreys and sound engineer Fernando Whittaker had all been charged with resisting arrest and hindering police following a speak-out against Operation Sweep organised by the socialist youth organisation Resistance.

A permit for a march had been obtained which ran until 1.30pm. At 1.28 the police threatened to start making arrests if the demonstration was not completed within two minutes. Police then claimed that the permit for the demonstration had expired. The rally organisers reluctantly complied with the police directives, hoping to avoid arrests.

Minutes later the police arrested a young woman, Gisela Gonzalez. Without any information being provided to protesters about the reasons for the arrest, many surrounded the police vehicle in which she had been placed.

In court, the prosecution argued that anyone surrounding the police vehicle should be considered as hindering police activity. Furthermore, the police alleged that Kim McGlynn was "inciting the crowd" to break the law.

The video footage became an important piece of evidence. For example, the prosecution alleged that Whittaker had struggled violently with the police. The video footage shown on Channel 10 on the evening news on May 23 made clear that "the only violence on the day was by the police", Stephen Bird told Green Left Weekly. Bird was the lawyer representing the three.

Bird explained in his submission to the magistrate that before being arrested for hindering police, an individual should be formally warned.

Thomas, at the demonstration as part of his work for Channel 10, was surprised at the "unnecessary force" used by the police.

The magistrate indicated that the police behaviour was somewhat rough.

Sean Healy from Resistance commented, "The arrests were totally unnecessary. It was only because the police were looking for an excuse to make arrests that any took place.

"There was widespread community concern over Operation Sweep and demonstrations and speak-outs should be a legitimate form to express that concern."

McGlynn and Jeffreys were found guilty of hindering police and fined $100 each with $30 costs. The three have legal costs arising from the case of almost $1200. Donations to help with these costs can be forwarded c/- Resistance, PO Box 204, Northbridge 6003.

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