There is a disturbing practice emerging from within Victoria Police. One that sees our clients’ fundamental rights to know the nature of the case that is being brought against them and have full disclosure of all relevant evidence the police intend to rely upon, not being upheld.
Increasingly, we are provided with ‘Preliminary Briefs’ with no statements attached, no CCTV attached, nothing but the summary of allegations.
We are expected to take instructions and advise our clients based on nothing.
We are told that if there is a dispute, we can then request the full brief of evidence.
You would assume that this simple request for statements and exhibits (that, don’t forget, we have a right to have) would be provided promptly and without question.
However, in reality, we are often faced with opposition and in some instances, the Police reveal their true attitude to fair prosecutions.
For example, we have a 20-year-old client, a young Sudanese refugee, who has been charged with an affray. He has been remanded in custody over this matter. He has given preliminary instructions that he was not involved and intends on pleading not guilty.
The brief came to us incomplete. Listed as an exhibit was CCTV footage that captured the incident. Upon making a request to the Informant, a Senior Constable from the Footscray Police Station for the footage, we were provided with the following one line response:
How many goddam emails am I goingto [sic] get for your crook!!!!!!!!!
a) incredibly stupid (to write this down rather than think it)
b) grossly inappropriate
c) a flagrant overuse of the exclamation mark, which does the bulk of its work in it’s singular form.
This is information we have a right to obtain as specialists in criminal law in Melbourne and we will write as many emails as it takes for us to get what we need to properly defend our clients.
Full disclosure is not a luxury. It is a right, and this is a very good example of the way that some members of Victoria Police view people’s rights. Our client is after all, according to this police officer, just a crook, so why bother.
I had another Police Officer tell me the other day that I had to go to a suburban Court to pick up a brief rather than here provide. She was wrong but again felt that us asking for this material was us being demanding.
Police should be held accountable for such outrageous conduct and held up as an example of what not to do if the system is going to have a pretense of fairness.
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