Ballina bashing hearing closes
IT COULD be months before the NSW police officers involved in a police brutality scandal at the Ballina watchhouse learn their fate.
The Police Integrity Commission hearings into the treatment of 23-year-old Aboriginal man Corey Barker concluded in Sydney yesterday, leaving the commissioner to examine the conflicting evidence presented to him in the past two weeks.
Throughout the hearings, stories on both sides have been plagued with inconsistencies.
Early in the hearings Corey Barker's friends gave varying accounts of the events which led to his arrest at the scene of a domestic dispute in Tamar St in Ballina in January 2011.
One friend, who had prepared a statement for Mr Barker's lawyers, admitted to the hearing he had not even been there on the night Barker was arrested and had simply "gone along with it" because it seemed like one of his "good drunken ideas".
The majority of friends maintained, however, that Mr Barker had been unfairly treated.
Mr Barker claimed that once inside the watchhouse he was "treated like a piece of garbage" and dragged to the back cells "where there are no cameras".
He described waking up in a paddy wagon the next morning and realising "something had happened" because "every bit of (his) body ached".
All six police officers involved have described Mr Barker as one of the most violent and abusive prisoners they had ever come across.
They also maintained that throughout the night he continued to abuse and make threats to police.
Senior Constable Hill, who said that at the time of his arrest Barker "looked like a body builder", had been at the top level of aggression and had, throughout his night at the watchhouse, continuously challenged officers to "fight him one on one".
Most officers have told the hearings they did not know Mr Barker before the night he arrived at the watch house.
They have denied knowing he was on a suspended sentence at the time for the serious assault of a police officer at Byron Bay and most claim they were not aware he identified as an Aboriginal.
But the focus of the investigation has been on the four officers, currently on restricted duties, who originally said they had seen Mr Barker punch a fellow officer and then told the hearing they had been mistaken.
They have admitted the footage does contain evidence Snr Const Eckersley kicked Mr Barker in the head, Constable Mewing inflicted a "knee strike" and Snr Const Hill pushed him up against a wall.
Snr Const Hill has maintained he was hit by Mr Barker and that the evidence he provided in his original statement was how he "remembered it happening".
Asked at the end of the hearings to confirm that based on the footage presented, it would have been impossible for Barker to have hit him, Snr Const Hill replied: "Don't know (about) impossible...improbable".
Along with ruling on whether police treated Barker unfairly, the commissioner will examine whether the legal loophole which allows officers to view each other's statements is encouraging cross-contamination of evidence within the NSW Police Force.