Having been arrested in mid-2011 in dubious circumstances that a local court magistrate later found were unlawful, David Rook claims he and his male partner were allegedly mistreated by officers from Rose Bay LAC at both the Rose Bay and Waverley police stations in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Rook claims his partner was assaulted by persons appearing to be uniformed police connected with the policing operations at Rose Bay. He also claims he had basic liberties deprived including not being allowed to use the toilet, preventing him from urinating. He has indicated he will be formally pressing claims for both false arrest and malicious prosecution against NSW Police, claims which could see him heading to the District Court of New South Wales.
Heavy hitting social justice advocates and criminal defendants Marsdens lawyers have the NSW Police Force firmly in their sights and are putting them on notice that the matter is not going away any time soon.
“We are firmly of the view that both the arrest and subsequent prosecution were unlawful and thus entitle Mr Rook to pursue civil damages against NSW Police. Our firm has a proud tradition of upholding individual rights and civil liberties, a tradition established by founder of the firm and staunch gay rights advocate, the late John Marsden,” Marsdens solicitor Robert Mitas told the Star Observer.
Rook told the Star Observer this week that his two-year battle to prove serious wrongdoing by NSW Police has resulted in a loss of total faith in those that are meant to serve and protect the community.
“I never thought they operated the way they do,” he said. “Something is very wrong deep within NSW Police, that’s my honest opinion – there seems to be a deep culture of lying and dirty tricks.”
Rook, 42, alleges NSW Police have engaged in a conspiracy to delete CCTV footage which shows several men in police uniform beating up his partner within the grounds of Rose Bay police station and one female officer laughing in the early hours of 5 June 2011.
The businessman has high-profile support for his attempts to hold police to account from Greens MLC David Shoebridge who told the Star Observer just how hard police accountability can be to find when all of the risk lies with the alleged victim of police misconduct.
“My office has been inundated with people who have legitimate concerns about police conduct,” he said.
“They have made complaints to both the police and ombudsman and have got absolutely nowhere because almost every time those complaints end up being investigated by other police. So, for many people if you want genuine accountability – you have to be willing to take the real risk of civil proceedings which comes with significant costs implication if you want an genuinely independent and fair assessment of police conduct. Very few people are going to take that risk and therefore police misconduct is rarely properly investigated.
“These type of civil claims are where an independent judge hears the evidence and makes the decision and this is often the only way to hold police accountable for their actions.”
Rook, who has a stutter, has made serious allegations that he was “set-up” later that same night with an attempt to charge him with drink-driving. That was followed by what Rook alleges were months of obfuscation and rejection by Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLOs) and other police investigating their complaint against the officers involved. Footage from the incident previously published by the SMH also appears to not have sequential timing.
A senior project manager with an international company, Rook told the Star Observer that his “night of horror” began shortly after midnight when he and his partner, John Tanner, went to Rose Bay Police to report an assault on Tanner while at the Sydney Opera House earlier that evening.
Rook, who had been drinking alcohol on the night, responded to a call from a girl unknown to him, who rang him from Tanner’s phone to say his partner had been attacked and needed assistance. Rook then got into his car to collect him before driving to Rose Bay police station. Rather than helping them, Rook says Rose Bay police “exchanged knowing glances” before running his driver’s licence through the RTA database and telling him that there was nothing they could do and that Rook should drive Mr Tanner to an “ER Ward”.
The pair then decided they would drive home instead and visit the hospital the morning after. Just as they arrived at their apartment about half-a-kilometre from the police station, Rook was pulled over by two police officers who were previously at Rose Bay during the couple’s visit. Rook then was forced to undergo a breath-test that a magistrate would later find was illegal as it contravened the ‘at-home rule’ whereby police can not test people once they are on their own property. At the same time, it is alleged by the couple that arresting officers referred to Tanner as a “fag”.
Having failed the breath test, Rook was transported to Waverley Police Station where he was charged with mid-range drink driving. Tanner, who was locked out of their unit as the keys were on Rook, says he then walked back to Rose Bay police station to report the anti-gay abuse and to ask where Rook was and when he would be brought back.
Tanner alleges officers said they would not take his report after which he was physically tossed out via the station’s front door before then being assaulted by two officers who kicked, punched and abused him. Part of this attack and the true movements of the police who arrested him that night, Rook alleges, were caught on the station’s CCTV which he says has since been tampered with, with key scenes seemingly deleted.
A report released in December 2012 by the NSW Ombudsman into Rook’s allegations of misconduct concluded most of his complaints were unfounded, a situation he says is a result of the Ombudsman’s office having an interdependent relationship with the police and not one of true independence. The report also claimed there was no evidence of tampering with the station’s CCTV despite Rook spending a considerable amount of money hiring the world’s leading expert in CCTV recovery – the Canadian Dave McKay – who found that the explanation of the gaps in question in the CCTV provided by the police in their Police IT Expert Report was inconsistent with how the software actually operated.
This then caused the same Police IT expert to change his explanation of the gaps in question, according to Rook, which were now said to be ‘unexplainable system faults’.
“It was obvious the Ombudsman’s office did no investigation at all other than to speak to the police involved and to then repeat the same lies in a factually inaccurate report designed to limit their legal liability in the matter,” Rook said.
“The original investigating Inspector from Rose Bay lied about how he refused us access to a GLLO and how he would not help us to have one present during Rose Bay’s investigation of Rose Bay police officers.
“The GLLO eventually assigned to us simply disappeared mid-way through the ‘investigation’ with no explanation ever given to us until much later.”
Even more worryingly, Rook alleges police have also sought to intimidate him for choosing to continue on with his complaint, with police raiding the premises of his original Sydney-based CCTV expert and officers from Rose Bay re-enacting his illegal arrest with the use of five police squad cars outside his former unit block.
“They even enrolled my landlord and they used his car as part of the re-enactment,” he explains. “We got a nasty email around this time from our estate agent not to approach our landlord, and then on our next lease renewal we were formally evicted – we are sure as a result of the police intimidation.”
Shoebridge has commenced proceedings on Rook’s behalf in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT) in relation to his request for NSW Police to release what he believes is the original CCTV footage. An adverse finding against the police in the ADT will allow Rook to bring his complaint in front of the Ombudsman again.
Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, while declining to comment on specific matters in the case told the Star Observer he could assure the LGBTI community that NSW Police were there to serve and protect them.
“If there are issues that are causing them some angst in terms of coming forward and talking to us, by all means we can make arrangements to have those matters dealt with very discreetly,” he added.
Awaiting the judgement of the ADT to be released shortly, Shoebridge told the Star Observer he was “deeply troubled” by Rook’s case and others which highlighted a real need for an independent statutory police oversight body.
“It must be properly resourced and can properly investigate not only critical incidents where people may be seriously injured or killed during police activities but also review systemic failings of police and corruption issues,” he said.
“For many people in the community, it is the systemic failings by police. It’s the failure to investigate, being treated with contempt when making a serious complaint and the sense they are not getting a fair hearing when they go to police.”
The Star Observer and the journalist Serkan Ozturk have made repeated requests from New South Wales Police, including from Commissioner Scipione, Supt Tony Crandell and the Police Media Unit. They have either declined to comment or not returned calls.