A NSW solicitor was deliberately targeted, harassed and intimidated on his way to court by three police officers during an episode of misconduct the Law Society of NSW President labelled “completely unacceptable”.
Following an investigation spanning almost two years, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) found three police officers from Strike Force Raptor “engaged in serious police misconduct” when they targeted the solicitor.
Their investigation, dubbed Operation Monza, concluded the officers embarked on behaviour designed to “intimidate and harass” the solicitor in 2019, following a request he made for police to give evidence in-person during a hearing for his client, appearing on animal cruelty charges in a local court in regional NSW.
During private hearings held by the Commission in 2020, two officers told the inquiry they had acted on the instructions of a supervisor when they “inconvenienced” the solicitor with minor traffic offences as he made his way to court. The supervisor confirmed to the inquiry that he gave those instructions.
The solicitor told the inquiry he noticed police parked outside his house at 6.30am and that they followed him as he drove a neighbour to a car repair store on his way to court.
The inquiry heard the solicitor was pulled over by the two officers, who asked to see his licence because he had not indicated when he reversed from his driveway. He was then stopped again a short time later for a road worthiness check on his car and served with a vehicle defect notice. A mechanic later inspected the car and found no defects.
Law Society of NSW President Juliana Warner wrote to the NSW Police Commissioner in the wake of the Commission’s report and findings from the investigation, tabled in Parliament on March 26.
“I have written to the NSW Police Commissioner, Michael Fuller APM, on behalf of the legal profession expressing my concerns about the conduct uncovered by the [LECC report],” Warner said in a statement.
“The deliberate targeting of a solicitor, as uncovered by the Commission, so as to impede his or her ability to represent his or her client at court, is completely unacceptable and has raised significant concerns across the legal profession.
“It presents a real threat to the community’s belief that the criminal justice system is operating as it should.
“I also noted in my letter to the Police Commissioner that the LECC found that three officers engaged in serious police misconduct and recommended that further action be considered in relation to that misconduct. I look forward to the Police Commissioner’s response to the Commission’s report.”