May 25: A GROUP of people – including six juveniles – who were cleared over the so-called Yamba riots is suing the New South Wales Police for millions of dollars in compensation.
A police truck was torched, another badly damaged and officers were pelted with bricks on an industrial estate just outside the north coast seaside town during a Valentine’s Day party in 2010 that attracted a mob of more than 100 people.
But when the case got to court, the adults were all acquitted and the police withdrew all charges against the juveniles after a magistrate criticised the police case as “too unreliable”.
The 16 are now claiming damages for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and mental trauma. Their lawyers Mark Spagnolo and Tony Love yesterday filed statements of claim with the District Court registry in Lismore.
Mr Love said some of those charged had lost income through being imprisoned for up to six months before their trial and others had run up medical and psychological treatment bills.
One of the men has launched a private prosecution against two of the officers, who are both away from work on sick leave. Mr Spagnolo said there was no question that things had got out of control that night in Yamba.
“But if you step outside the realm of yes, there was a police car burnt and yes, there was some extreme anti-social behaviour that should never have happened, it doesn’t allow the police to choose who they are going to charge without any evidence,” Mr Spagnolo said.
“It is important to understand innocent people were assaulted, refused bail, imprisoned, detained in police custody and, for some juveniles and adults, placed on lengthy curfews and non-association conditions of bail, based on statements and evidence that were proven in court to be false, misleading or unreliable.”
When the charges against the adults came before the Grafton Local Court, magistrate John Andrews said he was convinced that officers had swapped notes before typing their official statements.
“There is little doubt various police witnesses have collaborated with their evidence,” Mr Andrews said. “If police are prepared not to be honest in such matters, how then can a court be prepared to consider their evidence seriously?”
The only conviction was for the party host, who was found not to have complied with a noise abatement order.