LECC found the targeting of the solicitor was “serious misconduct” carried out for no legitimate policing purpose, which amounted to “deliberate, deceitful and malicious harassment”.
“They harassed and intimidated [the solicitor] to such an extent that he could not represent [his client] to the best of his abilities,” LECC found.
In evidence to the commission, a Detective Chief Inspector who has since left Raptor said he first learned about the targeting of the solicitor when a local police officer called to ask him about it.
He said he called the sergeant involved – given the pseudonym Officer MON5 – and was told something like “if he’s going to get us all up there, then he can get targeted with the bikies”. The chief inspector understood this to refer to the solicitor’s request that police attend court in person.
“His understanding was that Officer MON5 had instructed Officers MON3 and MON4 to interact with [the solicitor], and that they had issued [the solicitor] with relatively trivial traffic offences,” the report said.
“This concerned him because in his view [the solicitor] should not have been targeted.”
When Officer MON5 returned from the regional town, the chief inspector asked him, “what, are you going to attack a Magistrate next because you lose a court matter?”
He told the sergeant that a solicitor is “a part of the judicial system” and is not to be targeted, but didn’t think the other officer understood, so kept “pushing the point until I got it through”.
“Soon after this incident, he gathered Strike Force Raptor officers together for a meeting, including Officer MON5, to explain why solicitors are not to be targeted,” LECC said.
The commission said in its report that it is “concerned about the sense of entitlement” that can develop in an elite strike force like Raptor.
“If you are an elite, are you bound by the rule of law and the policies of the NSWPF or are you bigger, better, harder and more entitled?” LECC said.
“The task of these officers is to enforce the law. If the unlawful conduct engaged in by these officers is allowed to continue and be condoned because of some imagined higher purpose, there can be no good to come from it for the people of New South Wales.”
The solicitor targeted was described by LECC as “a pillar of the community” who has never been involved in any criminal activity and was just doing his job. It was recommended that senior police contact him to apologise “as soon as possible”.
Georgina Mitchell is a court reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.