Mother to test illegal charge

LAWYERS representing a Kyogle mother and son hope to change the way police deal with Aboriginal people across the State through a NSW Supreme Court challenge.

Gloria May Williams and her son, Robert Lee Anthony Williams, were found guilty in the Kyogle Local Court last month of hindering police when officers arrived at an indigenous dance ceremony to arrest younger brother, Joel Nathan Williams, on a shoplifting charge resulting from 2009.

The Aboriginal Legal Service will argue it was an illegal arrest and therefore its clients could not have been hindering police.

The service’s chief legal officer, John McKenzie, believes the arrest was unlawful under the Law Enforcement Act, which requires police to prove an arrest is necessary.

“We will argue there was no real need for Mr Williams to be arrested, especially given the sensitive nature of the circumstances during a cultural dance ceremony,” he said.

“In line with NSW law, arrest should always be a last resort.

“Police had identification and an address and could have quite easily issued a court attendance order.”

Mr McKenzie added that it was a relatively minor charge from some time earlier and there was no issue of ongoing law breaking.

The arrest incident occurred at the Kyogle Masonic Hall last November, where about 40 Ngarakwal-Githabul people had gathered for a dance ceremony.

Mr McKenzie said while he expected police to argue their position robustly, he hoped the case might bring about a change in policy.

“We get a lot of calls from across NSW about this very issue – particularly involving youngsters – and a lot of bad things can transpire just from the arrest, including unnecessary extended incarceration, and transportation away from the support of family,” he said.

“In many cases, the charges are dropped or lessened, and many times when guilty, it still doesn’t justify jail.

“We’re also very concerned that NSW bail laws are so tight that many have to wait in custody for their day in court.”

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