Police under fire for bikie raids and press releases
LAWYERS have questioned the level of force used in a series of raids on the Sunshine Coast that allegedly led to glass slivers from a smashed door being sprayed across a cot normally occupied by a four-month-old baby.
They said their clients were treated as sub-human in what was a developing and disturbing trend since the introduction of the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment laws last October.
Militarised US-style swat raids appear to have ramped up ahead of a full bench of the High Court challenge to the laws that starts on September 1.
In four raids conducted simultaneously on Friday last week by the Sunshine Coast Gang Squad and Operation Maxima officers dressed in full combat gear, police vehicles were driven through closed gates, and doors smashed in, without warning or announcement.
Police immediately released video footage of the raids to media, showing officers with guns drawn and handcuffing suspects.
The seizure of drugs, guns, money and gold bullion was announced in press statements, suggesting the disruption of major crime.
The announcement said a pistol and ammunition were found in specially constructed hidden compartments.
Lawyers for the group said the reality was police found 1.8 grams of marijuana - for which a drug diversion order was issued - a .22 pistol with ammunition and a replica wall-mounted AK-47.
They say the $13,000 cash seized had been stored in the safe of one of those arrested and was working capital for his business. The bullion was seven ounces of gold that represented the savings of the businessman, Matt Carney, and his wife.
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties spokesman Terry O'Gorman said there was growing concern at the militarisation of drug raids where police were able to promote the slightest hint of bikie involvement.
Lawyer John Cook said the six-year-old son of one of his clients had been taken to counselling after witnessing police smash into the family home and put a gun to his father's head.
He was supported by criminal lawyer and former police prosecutor Bob Butler, who described the behaviour as disgraceful.
Mr Butler said the penalties imposed by courts indicated offences were not as had been suggested by police.
"Maxima officers and police on the Gold Coast have a mindset encouraged by government that things like driving through gates using unnecessary force was okay," Mr O'Gorman said.
"In recent weeks police media units had provided exclusives to Newscorp as part of what appeared to be a deliberate strategy to divide the media and to send a message to journalists that if they co-operate they would be rewarded."
The Coast raids were triggered by images that appeared on social media in June showing Matt Carney, the proprietor of a wilderness backpacker camp at Noosa, his employee Jessie Hobson, Walter Wintle and Paul "Max" Landsdowne holding in turn a replica AK-47 belonging to Mr Carney. The pool room display piece had been taken from a wall in Mr Carney's home during a barbecue.
It was not taken out of the home or carried in public.
Lansdowne is one of the Yandina Five and his presence at the barbecue was in breach of his current bail conditions.
He pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a weapon (photographed with the AK-47 replica), possession of explosives (a box of .22 calibre bullets) and two bail breaches, for which he received three and six months imprisonment suspended on the condition he be of good behaviour for two years.
Mr Wintle pleaded guilty and was fined $500 for being in possession of a weapon, with no conviction recorded, and Mr Carney, the owner of the replica, was fined $1000 with the conviction recorded.
Mr Hobson, who had also been charged with having the replica in his possession, was detained in custody until a Monday court appearance, where he was released with no further punishment.
Lawyers for the men said police conducting the raids on properties at Doonan, Eerwah Vale, Tewantin and Cooroibah did not knock and announce themselves. Instead they smashed glass doors, pulled people from beds and put guns to their heads shouting "on the ground c**t".
The men said their homes were turned upside down, clothes pulled from cupboards and trampled on and flour and sugar tipped on to kitchen benches in search of drugs.