An Aboriginal teenager is suing the state of New South Wales after allegedly being assaulted by police in the state’s north in an altercation described as “abhorrent and racist” in court documents.
A Statement of Claim filed in the Lismore District Court said the alleged assault was “disgraceful” and “an oppressive abuse of police powers” by officers targeting an Aboriginal boy “for no reason whatsoever”.
The New South Wales Police Force said it would be “inappropriate for us to comment” while the matter was before court.
The 17-year-old Bundjalung teenager alleged the assault occurred around 12.30am on September 26 last year when he was walking home on the footpath of the main street of the town of Casino in northern New South Wales.
The Statement of Claim describes the officers surrounding the teenager and a senior contestable shoving him twice before striking him “forcefully to his mouth with his hand”.
In the video, one of the officers can be heard asking the teenager “Why did you have a swing at him?” and gesturing to another officer.
The teenager replied he did not have a swing.
Grafton-based civil rights lawyer Joe Fahey, representing the teenager, said the incident was filmed and the video “speaks for itself”.
He described the details set out in his Statement of Claim.
“The young fella’s walking along the street,” Mr Fahey said.
“He’s followed, and then surrounded by three police officers, who are much bigger and older than him.
“He’s given a bit of a hard time and then he’s struck forcefully to the face.
“When he got home he had blood all over his face from the wound to his mouth.
“So the claim is based around that incident.”
The teenager is seeking damages, alleging he was repeatedly battered, falsely imprisoned, suffered damage to his reputation, and a loss of dignity.
The Statement of Claim says that no officer apologised for his actions and alleges the officer who struck the plaintiff “lied publicly about the reason for striking the plaintiff in order to attempt to justify” his actions.
‘Not an isolated incident’
Court documents say the alleged assault demonstrates “a failure by the Richmond Local Area Command to properly train, discipline, and educate its police officers to prevent them from racially vilifying young Aboriginal males in the Casino area”.
Mr Fahey said this type of behaviour was not an isolated incident.
“I’ve had a number of cases over there [in Casino] which have involved some pretty ordinary behaviour by police officers towards young aboriginal males,” he said.
“One of which included capsicum-spraying a 15-year-old boy and leaving him untreated on the side of the road between Casino and Kyogle a couple of years ago, and on the same night doing a similar thing to his cousin.
“I don’t think it’s the same officers … but nevertheless it seems to be this sort of thing happening in the Casino area for a few years.”
Mr Fahey said the 15-year-old settled out of court while his older cousin was awarded $70,000 in damages.
The latest case is scheduled for a pre-trial conference next week.