Victorian coronavirus rulebreakers warned as Melbourne woman charged with attacking police officer over mask

A growing group of anti-maskers have been “baiting” and antagonising Victorian police, and in one instance smashed the head of a female officer into concrete until she was concussed, authorities say.

Police said two female police officers approached a 38-year-old woman, who was not wearing a face covering, in the Frankston area on Monday night.

After questioning the woman about why she was not wearing one, police allege she pushed one officer and struck the other in the head.

“After a confrontation and being assaulted by that woman, those police officers went to ground and there was a scuffle,” Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said.

“During that scuffle, this 38-year-old woman smashed the head of the [26-year-old] policewoman several times into a concrete area on the ground.”

Police said the constable was taken to Frankston Hospital with “significant head injuries”.

The woman’s alleged assault left the young police officer with a concussion and a missing clump of hair, Police Association of Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt said.

“The offender had a clump of our member’s hair in her hands and said to our member ‘what’s it like to have your hair in my hands’ or words to that effect,” he said.

“That’s just horrible conduct — it’s not human-like to be quite honest.”

Police have charged the alleged attacker with nine offences, including two counts of assaulting an emergency worker and one count of recklessly causing injury.

She had no previous criminal history and was granted bail to appear before the Frankston Magistrates’ Court on March 31, 2021.

Details of the alleged attack were revealed as Victoria announced there would be more police and Army resources and new fines targeting people who did not self-isolate when directed.

A new $4,659 on-the-spot fine will apply for people who breach self-isolation orders, but “particularly selfish behaviour” and repeated breaches can now attract a $20,000 penalty, Premier Daniel Andrews said.

An additional 250 police officers will also join the roughly 1,500 personnel who are already working on enforcing restrictions around Victoria.

Mr Gatt said he did not know why the 38-year-old’s alleged response to being questioned was so strong.

But he said it was just one example of people refusing to comply with restrictions and antagonising police.

“This was a particularly violent occurrence but our members have been stood up by smartarses around the state for five minutes of fame in front of a camera,” he said.

“Frontline police and emergency service workers shouldn’t have to go through this.

“We should be holding them in the highest of regards and supporting them as they keep us safe — not dragging them to the ground and smashing their head into the concrete.”

Chief Commissioner Patton said in the past week police had seen a trend of people calling themselves “sovereign citizens” who “don’t think the law applies to them”.

“We’ve seen them at checkpoints baiting police, not providing a name and address,” he said.

“On at least four occasions in the last week, we’ve had to smash the windows of cars and pull people out to provide details because they weren’t adhering to the Chief Health Officer’s guidelines, they weren’t providing their name and address.”

Commissioner Patton said the groups were small “but nonetheless concerning”.

“People have to absolutely understand there are consequences for your actions and if you’re not doing the right thing, we will not hesitate to issue infringements, to arrest you, to detain you where it’s appropriate,” he said.

“It’s not something we want to be doing, but it is what we will do and it has been occurring in the past week.”

The Premier said the attack on the officer in Frankston was “fundamentally disgusting”

“Police are out there, putting themselves in harm’s way, they run towards the danger when the rest of us wouldn’t.”

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Victoria Police officer Ross Fowler spared jail over bashing of Frankston man

A police officer who “gratuitously” kicked a man in handcuffs and hit him with a torch has been spared jail by a Melbourne court.

Instead, Ross Fowler has been ordered to pay $10,000 and a conviction has not been recorded.

In March, a jury found Fowler, 51, guilty of recklessly causing injury when he kicked and hit Brian Jackson with a torch.

Senior Constable Fowler and his policing partner Travis Woolnough had responded to a family violence incident in February 2016.

Mr Woolnough was found not guilty by the jury.

During the trial, CCTV footage was played to the jury which showed Fowler kicking Mr Jackson after handcuffing him.

“The CCTV footage depicts Mr Jackson trying to get away from you, not seeking to confront you,” sentencing County Court Judge Trevor Wraight said.

Judge Wraight said while the 12-year veteran of the force had shown little sign of remorse, the assault was at a low level.

He also took into account Fowler’s good character.

“The community is entitled to trust and even in these challenging circumstances police officers must act lawfully,” Judge Wraight said.

The court heard Fowler felt guilt, not because he had not acted properly, but because he might lose his job and put his family under financial pressure.

Fowler continued to maintain that he acted only because he was threatened by Mr Jackson.

Mr Jackson suffered physical pain at the time, and continues to feel the psychological impact of the crime which has “drained him emotionally”, the court was told.

The court heard 30 character references had been submitted on Fowler’s behalf.

Judge Wraight said they showed his “conduct … is inconsistent with the character of the person they know”.

In an earlier hearing, Fowler’s lawyers had urged Judge Wraight not to record a conviction so that he could remain in the police force.

He was suspended from duty following the jury finding.

“This man has been an excellent police officer,” defence lawyer Geoffrey Steward said during the plea hearing in May.

Prosecutors had recommended a fine and a conviction for Fowler.

“In my submission there was no aggression, no confrontation and no resistance demonstrated by Mr Jackson,” prosecutor Matt Fisher said during the plea hearing.

“By the time Mr Fowler kicked him in the back he was in a relatively vulnerable position.

“It’s completely unnecessary, it is gratuitous.

“He [Mr Jackson] was not a threat.”

But Mr Steward said it was an act that had “minor consequences” when Fowler “fleetingly caused a bruise and some pain to Mr Jackson”.

Mr Jackson was acting “irrationally, defiant, resistant” when the officers arrived that night, Mr Steward told the court.

Mr Jackson had been drinking and was also accused of being high on the drug ice, although there was no evidence presented to the court of drug use.

“The vulnerability of this man … is, with respect, not clear,” Mr Steward said.

“Jackson was no piece of cake to deal with.”

But in the plea hearing, Judge Wraight noted police officers dealt with annoying and drunk people all the time.

Fowler was a remarkable police officer, Mr Steward told the court, while admitting his client has acted “excessively”.

The court heard Fowler had “a desire to learn from this … and a hope to move on with his career”.

The court was told there would be “catastrophic financial circumstances” for Fowler and his family if he was to lose his job at Victoria Police.

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Former police officer Matthew Paul Hockley, who worked in the child protection unit, found guilty of grooming teenage girl

Matthew Paul Hockley, 33, pleaded not guilty on the first day of his District Court trial in Brisbane last week to one count each of grooming a child under 16 with intent to procure engagement in a sexual act, grooming a child under 16 with intent to expose to indecent matter, and using the internet to procure a child under 16.

The prosecution alleged the former senior constable, who had been working in the Inala Child Protection and Investigation Unit in Brisbane’s south-west, had interviewed the 15-year-old girl in 2019 in relation to an incident involving explicit images of her being shared at her school.

It was alleged after the interview he added the teenager on the social media application Snapchat and sent her a series of messages that escalated from inoffensive to sexual and inappropriate, which made the girl “increasingly uncomfortable”.

The court was told in his messages, Hockley would allegedly refer to the teenager as “cute” and “beautiful” and had repeatedly commented about “young girls” being sexually involved with “older men”.

It was also alleged that on one occasion Hockley described an alleged sexual offence that had been committed by a man against another child, to the teenager.

The court heard over a period of three weeks, Hockley and the teenage girl had exchanged more than 1,000 messages, but due to the nature of the application that automatically deleted conversations, only a handful had been recorded.

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Officer fined for assault

Magistrate John Lesser last Tuesday found David Phillip Magher, 57, guilty of unlawful assault for kicking Andrew Birch during an arrest in 2018.

Magistrate John Lesser noted evidence from 10 police witnesses, all of who said Mr Birch aggressively resisted arrest, and spat and yelled profanities at officers.

Mr Lesser ruled the first kick lawful, saying he could not find beyond reasonable doubt that it was an “unreasonable” use of force.

But about 30 seconds later Magher delivered the first of two more kicks as police held Mr Birch face-down on the floor with his cuffed hands outstretched.

Magher admitted kicking Mr Birch, but his lawyer Stewart Bayles argued the blows were of “reasonable force in the circumstances” given Mr Birch’s aggressive resistance.

Mr Lesser disagreed, finding Magher guilty of unlawful assault for the “gratuitous and unnecessary” kicks.

In the sentencing hearing Mr Bayles listed his client’s several injuries, commendations and traumatic experiences in the force since joining Victoria Police 29 years ago.

He said Magher “chips in” and supports other police in difficult incidents “even when he doesn’t necessarily have to”.

A conviction would greatly reduce the career policeman’s chances of returning to work, Mr Bayles said.

He also noted high arrest and police injury rates at Corio Police Station.

Mr Birch’s father Garry read out a statement in court about how the incident affected his son following his release from custody a few days later.

“He was quite despondent. It was as though a light had gone out,” Garry Birch said.

“He told us about the assault and over the next few days complained about his chest and head. Then he was gone.”

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Geelong police officer David Magher spared conviction for assaulting man in custody

A Geelong police officer found guilty of assaulting a prisoner has avoided a conviction due to his “exemplary” history in the police force.

Sergeant David Magher was earlier this week found guilty in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court of two counts of assault, after kicking Andrew Birch at Corio Police Station in September 2018.

Magistrate John Lesser today sentenced Sergeant Magher to pay a $4,250 fine for the assault but decided not to record a conviction.

Earlier in the week, Magistrate Lesser ruled the first of three kicks delivered by Sergeant Magher was a reasonable use of force but the two kicks that followed were assault, describing the kicks as “gratuitous and unnecessary”.

During sentencing, Magistrate Lesser said police officers were required to confront people on a regular basis that were “often reactive and defiant” but the community was “required to trust that even in these challenging circumstances police must act lawfully, which requires a great deal of tolerance and patience”.

“Your character and past history to that point are exemplary, in terms of your employment, and in my view there is a likely impact of recording a conviction on both your social wellbeing and economic wellbeing and your future employment prospects,” he said.

“On balance therefore I have decided to exercise discretion not to record a conviction.”

Magistrate Lesser said he hoped if Sergeant Magher remained in the police force that he always remembered what constituted “lawful and appropriate conduct”.

Defence lawyer Stewart Bayles argued his client’s background, with no prior convictions and nine Victoria Police awards for exemplary work, should be considered when sentencing.

He also asked Magistrate Lesser to take into account Sergeant Magher’s dedication to policing over his 26-year career, including being part of a program to reduce mental and physical harm to police officers and offenders, and being in charge of a unit in Geelong to reduce youth crime.

Mr Bayles said Sergeant Magher still dealt with the impact of attending two teenage suicides in the years before the 2018 incident and saving someone from an attempted suicide on the West Gate Bridge.

He said Sergeant Magher had also been seriously injured “multiple times” throughout his career.

Mr Birch, who was 36 at the time of the incident, died a week after being released from custody from a suspected drug overdose.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Birch’s father Gary Birch said his son was “larger than life” and someone who showed “genuine remorse” when he did the wrong thing.

“Andrew’s four days in custody were very stressful for our family. We were aware something had happened but were not aware of any information. We were trying to help him but couldn’t,” Gary Birch said.

“To know he was treated so inhumanely days before his death breaks our hearts.”

Magistrate Lesser said he “felt great sympathy” for the Birch family for their loss, but noted that the family’s victim impact statement was within “a much broader context than just the charges [Sergeant Magher] must be sentenced on today”.

The magistrate said he hoped the sentencing brought “a conclusion to what has been a long and difficult process for you to follow”.

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Man arrested after NSW police officer bitten on face by dog during domestic dispute

A man has been charged with inciting his dog to attack after it bit a police officer on the face during an alleged domestic violence incident in Sydney’s south-west.

The NSW police officer will undergo surgery today after suffering serious facial injuries when he was bitten by the rottweiler outside the home in Georges Hall in the early hours of this morning.

Police were called to the Marden Street home around 1:30am following reports of a domestic-related dispute.

Officers found a 59-year old woman outside, with a 52-year old man barricaded inside a rear garage with a rottweiler.

Police allege the man verbally abused police before inciting the dog to attack.

After the man was arrested and placed inside the police van, the dog ran onto the street.

Police said the woman managed to secure the dog, but as a sergeant was speaking to her, the dog attacked him, biting his face.

The officer was treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics at the scene before being taken to Liverpool Hospital, where he remains in a stable condition awaiting surgery.

The man was taken to Bankstown Police Station where he was charged with several offences including common assault (DV), resisting arrest and two counts of set on or urge dog to attack, bite.

He has been refused bail to appear at Parramatta Bail Court today.

Council officers from the City of Canterbury and Bankstown have seized the dog and transferred it to a holding facility.

A council spokesperson said officers had been unable to scan the dog’s details as it remained aggressive and unsafe to approach.

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New York City’s highest-ranking uniformed police officer is retiring

An announcement is expected as soon as Thursday afternoon.

New York City’s highest-ranking uniformed police officer, Terence Monahan, who memorably took a knee with George Floyd protesters in Washington Square Park, is retiring.

The announcement was made Thursday — NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison will take over as chief of department

“Rodney is a great friend of mine, we’ve worked together many many years, back to our time in the Bronx. without a doubt, he is the right man for the job,” Monahan said.

“Leaving the NYPD is probably the toughest decision I’ve ever made in my life,” he said, adding he was already jealous because he was in a suit now and Harrison was still in his police uniform

Monahan will transition into to a new role, working for Mayor Bill de Blasio as his senior advisor for the city’s recovery, safety and planning.

“This role is so important. It is about answering one of the central questions everyone needs answered. Keeping this city safe … determining what concerns need to be addressed,” de Blasio said. “I choose always people who are known for that incredible energy, and work ethic.”

Monahan joined the NYPD in 1982 and was named chief of department in January 2018.

He spearheaded the department’s neighborhood coordination officer program, but recently came under fire in a report by New York Attorney General Letitia James over his treatment of protesters last summer.

Monahan was named in a lawsuit last month from James that accused him, and others, of failing to address “a pattern of excessive, brutal and unlawful force against peaceful protesters.”

Monahan was among the defendants who “knowingly deployed thousands of insufficiently trained NYPD Officers to police the Protests,” according to the lawsuit. Monahan has not commented on the lawsuit.

At one point during the protests, Monahan took a knee to indicate the NYPD’s solidarity with demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The announcement of his retirement came as a surprise since it was thought Monahan planned to remain in his post through the end of de Blasio’s term.

Earlier this month the mayor announced “cutting-edge reform” to police discipline guidelines and pledged a break from past practices.

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Geelong police officer Sergeant David Magher found guilty on two counts of assault

A Geelong police officer has been found guilty of assault after kicking a man in custody three times to the side of his body.

Sergeant David Phillip Magher was charged with three counts of assault and suspended in 2018 by Professional Standards Command after kicking Andrew Birch as he was being transferred from a divisional van to a holding cell at Corio Police Station.

After a six-day contested hearing in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court, Magistrate John Lesser found Sergeant Magher guilty of two counts of assault and dismissed a third count.

Magistrate Lesser said while in his view the first kick was “unnecessary”, he could “not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the kicking action was not proportionate and reasonable”.

“The second and third kicks stand out as of a completely different character to the first,” Magistrate Lesser told the court.

“They stood out as gratuitous and unnecessary and could not be justified as reasonable and proportionate use of force. As a result, there can be no justification for the use of force in those two kicks … which were delivered with considerable force.

“In the heat of the moment, Sergeant Magher crossed the line from the reasonable and proportionate … to the excessive and disproportionate and unjustifiable and therefore unlawful use of force on Mr Birch.”

On September 21, 2018, then 36-year-old Mr Birch was arrested outside Corio Village Shopping Centre over a suspected armed robbery involving a knife and taken to Corio Police Station.

Security footage from the police station, played to the court, showed Mr Birch lunging towards Senior Sergeant Ian Kerin as he exited a police divisional van.

Sergeant Magher, who has been a police officer for more than 20 years, then kicked Mr Birch as he and Senior Sergeant Kerin pulled Mr Birch to the ground.

Mr Birch received two more kicks from Sergeant Magher as he was lying on the ground on his stomach with his handcuffed wrists pulled straight out in front of him and legs straight out behind him.

Magistrate Lesser dismissed the first kick on the grounds it could have been used as a tactic to make Mr Birch comply but ruled the two other kicks were excessive and unjustified.

Ten police witnesses were cross-examined during the hearing. All officers involved in Mr Birch’s arrest agreed he resisted arrest, spat at officers, and screamed profanities.

Defence lawyer Stewart Bayles argued the kicks were “reasonable” and “proportionate” and were used by Sergeant Magher to protect the officers and himself from Mr Birch kicking out and spitting and to stop him from escaping.

In his closing remarks, Mr Bayles told the court a reasonable use of force “should not be equated with perfect or even best practice”.

Crown prosecutor Sarah Thomas argued the kicks were an “excessive use of force that was not needed to seek compliance” and were instead used to punish Mr Birch for resisting arrest.

Ms Thomas argued Mr Birch had stopped struggling “many seconds before” Sergeant Magher kicked him the second and third time.

She said all the officers, including Sergeant Magher, appeared relaxed on the CCTV as they prepared to move Mr Birch to a cell.

“The suggestion Mr Birch was on the ground for a lengthy period of time because he continued to be non-compliant, the suggestion by Mr Magher [Mr Birch] was kicking throughout, that was simply not correct,” she said.

The court was told Superintendent Craig Gillard and Acting Inspector Michael Ryan reported Sergeant Magher to Professional Standards Command after Sergeant Magher admitted he used capsicum spray on Mr Birch twice during the arrest and told Acting Inspector Ryan: “I just wish I could delete the CCTV.”

Mr Bayles argued his client never said that and accused Acting Inspector Ryan of lying.

Sergeant Magher will return to court later this week for sentencing.

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Child protection police officer pleads not guilty to grooming charges of 15yo girl

On the first day of his District Court trial in Brisbane, 33-year-old Matthew Paul Hockley pleaded not guilty to two counts of child grooming and one count of using the internet to procure a child under 16.

During opening submissions, the prosecution told the court Mr Hockley was a serving senior constable at the Inala child protection and investigation unit in Brisbane’s south-west in 2019, when he interviewed the teenager in relation to an incident involving the sharing of explicit images of her and her ex-boyfriend.

Crown prosecutor Judy Geary said shortly after the interview, Mr Hockley had added the teenager on the social media application Snapchat, telling her who he was and adding that he wanted to “make sure she was being safe online” before sending her a photograph of himself.

The court heard the teenager had told her mother about the communication, who told her that it was “good” he had added her, and who later thanked the officer for “looking out” for her daughter.

Ms Geary said the prosecution would allege that over the course of several weeks, Mr Hockley sent a series of messages to the teenager that escalated from innocuous to a mostly sexual and inappropriate nature, and that the 15-year-old became “increasingly uncomfortable” with their communication.

On one occasion, Ms Geary told the court Mr Hockley, who would refer to the teenager as “cute” and “beautiful”, had sent her messages about “young girls” being sexually involved with “older men”.

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Youtube streaming of NT police officer Zachary Rolfe’s murder trial raised as concern in court

The murder trial of Constable Zachary Rolfe could be streamed on YouTube to Alice Springs and the remote community of Yuendumu, where 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker died in November 2019.

At a pre-trial hearing in the Northern Territory Supreme Court today, Chief Justice Michael Grant said the court’s administration was hoping to allow the broadcast of proceedings.

He said it would be streamed to the courthouse in Alice Springs and at the school in the community of Yuendumu, about 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains an image of a person who has died.

“There would be a facilitator [in Darwin] who would close down the broadcast whenever court is closed, whenever arguments are being made in the absence of the jury and otherwise, whenever the trial judge ordered,” he said.

Crown Prosecutor Sophie Callan said the prosecution would not oppose the streaming of the trial to Yuendumu, but questioned whether other members of the public could access it.

Kumanjayi Walker was killed in November 2019.(Supplied: Facebook)

Constable Rolfe’s defence lawyer, David Edwardson QC, said he had concerns about whether this would mean witnesses could potentially access the proceedings.

“We’d be most concerned if the public — the wider public — could access it outside of the hall,” he said.

Justice Grant acknowledged the concerns but reminded lawyers that any member of the public would be entitled to come to court and watch the proceedings.

“I imagine it will be possible to have a police officer located in the school hall at Yuendumu, able to give effect to any order the trial judge makes for witnesses to remove themselves from the premises,” Justice Grant said.

He said he would raise the matter with court staff.

The matter will return to court at the end of March.

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