HAVING been found not guilty last week of assaulting officers soon after this year’s Sydney Mardi Gras Parade had ended, gay activist Bryn Hutchinson has vowed to continue campaigning for a proper independent oversight body to investigate claims of police corruption and brutality.
Following four days of hearings that spanned for three months from August, Hutchinson, 32 (pictured, centre), had charges against him of assaulting police and resisting arrest dismissed on November 28 during a hearing at Downing Centre Local Court in front of Magistrate Eve Wynhausen.
Hutchinson’s sister, Kate, who was charged with swearing at police officers during the incident in early March, was also found not guilty.
According to Hutchinson’s legal team, in her judgement, Magistrate Wynhausen found that on the first charge of “assaulting an officer in the execution of duty,” Hutchinson was not guilty because he was acting in self defence. On the second charge of “resisting an officer in execution of their duty,” the ruling was that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a guilty verdict.
The charges stemmed from an incident shortly before 11.30pm on the night of March 2, when Hutchinson was prevented from walking across Oxford St near the corner of Crown St by a police officer who was soon joined by colleagues from Parramatta and Fairfield local area commands.
CCTV footage from the Colombian Hotel tendered into evidence showed other parade-goers near Hutchinson crossing the road without police talking to them at about the same time he attempted to do likewise.
According to the court testimony, police admitted there were no directives given that people could only cross at certain points of the road on the night, nor were there any orders given to people to only cross under the supervision of police.
The court also heard officers admit to kneeing and striking Hutchinson after what they said was a response to him attempting to lock his legs in to fell a police officer.
Speaking to the Star Observer shortly after the incident, Hutchinson claimed he was “grabbed from behind by several officers and thrown down on [his] back” before being flipped over and kicked several times.
“They put their weight on me and made it difficult to breathe,” Hutchinson said at the time.
“When I told them I couldn’t breathe properly one of the officers said, ‘if you can talk, you can breathe’.”
This week Hutchinson, who is the former co-convener of Community Action Against Homophobia, said that justice in his case was not the end of the matter for him as he truly believed there were wider cultural problems within NSW Police.
“There are clearly systemic issues with policing in NSW – my experience is one amongst many. It is unacceptable for police to investigate themselves; political action must be taken to establish independent oversight of police conduct,” he said.
“I call on all concerned citizens and politicians to continue raising concern and supporting other victims of police brutality.”
The Star Observer has made repeated attempts to speak with Superintendent Tony Crandell, the NSW Police Force’s chief spokesperson on LGBTI issues and the local Surry Hills area commander, about issues relating to the above matter but was told to direct question to the police media unit.
The Star Observer had sought to ascertain whether police had commenced their own internal investigation, as promised, into the actions of the officers involved in the incident with Hutchinson.
A NSW police spokesman responded with the following: “the community and the NSW Police Force expects its officers to act with the utmost professionalism. Complaints against officers are investigated thoroughly and appropriate action is taken.”
He also said police were investigating if there were grounds for an appeal.